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Know Your Rights As A Patient

Let's face it- no one likes to be sick. Whether one is dealing with "flu like" symptoms or facing a chronic illness, being sick can dramatically impact our quality of life and how we view life in general.

Each day, the media or advertisers bombard us with information on the latest health scare like the Zika virus or a new medicine that will cure us of every possible malady with only 12 or 15 life-threatening side effects. But don't worry; there is another medication that will address the side effects from the first medication!

Navigating our health care system can be complicated, scary, stressful and yes, expensive. While doctors and hospitals generally try to do a good job in addressing our health problems, it is hard not to feel ignored when there is only so much time and so many sick people to be cared for.

This is why it is extremely important to take an active role in your medical treatment and make informed decisions regarding your care. This week, Your Legal Corner will discuss the "Patient Bill of Rights" and tips to consider to receive the best medical treatment possible.

Patient Bill of Rights

In New Jersey, individuals receiving medical treatment in a hospital setting have legal rights governing their care. These rights provide that all patients should be treated with courtesy, consideration and respect. Additionally, each patient must receive an understandable explanation of his or her medical condition, recommended treatment, expected results, risks and reasonable alternatives.

Further, written consent is required by the patient or the patient's legal representative, before any non-emergency treatment can be given. Also, in most circumstances the patient has the right to refuse medication, and treatment and to be informed of the medical consequences of refusal.

A patient can request a transfer to another facility and have prompt access to medical records. The right to a copy of hospital charges, an itemized bill as well as an explanation must also be provided.

Medical Care Advocate

The old adage two heads are better than one is especially true in health care. Engage a medical care advocate to assist in managing daily care. An advocate can be a close friend, family member or retained from an agency. Legal authority must be given by the patient to an advocate to attend health appointments with the patient, keep records and discuss care alternatives.    

A medical care advocate can help resolve issues regarding health care, medical bills, and challenges that are related to a patient's care. A medical advocate should be someone you trust who can work well with other members of your health care team.

Internet as a Health Care Tool

According to a Pew Research Center study, approximately 80% of American adults use the Internet to research medical conditions or care. As with most topics, the Internet can be an invaluable research tool as long as one considers the source of the information.

If previously diagnosed with a disease, the Internet can be utilized to learn more about your condition and your treatment options. It can also be utilized to learn more about doctors as well as hospitals and their specialties. Most importantly, it can help you refine your questions to your doctor to get more specific, helpful information regarding your treatment.

Knowing your rights, enlisting the help of another, carefully researching the Internet and taking an active role in your medical treatment can make a world of difference in your medical care!

Till next time, God bless, keep smiling, when Your Legal Corner will discuss "Reporting child sexual abuse." Victoria M. Dalton is a dedicated Family/Elder Law Attorney with the Law Offices of Hoffman DiMuzio. Email correspondence to vdalton@hoffmandimuzio.com or call 856-845-8243.

Please note that Your Legal Corner was created to provide educational material about the law and is not legal advice.

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Woodbury, NJ, 08096-7007 USA
856.381.4837