1. HUMAN RIGHTS AND VALUES IN HEALTH CARE
The instruments cited in the Introduction should be understood as applying also specifically in the health care setting, and it should therefore be noted that the human values expressed in these instruments shall be reflected in the health care system. It should also be noted that where exceptional limitations are imposed on the rights of patients, these must be in accordance with human rights instruments and have a legal base in the law of the country. It may be further observed that the rights specified below carry a matching responsibility to act with due concern for the health of others and for their same rights.
1.1 Everyone has the right to respect of his or her person as a human being.
1.2 Everyone has the right to self-determination.
1.3 Everyone has the right to physical and mental integrity and to the security of his or her person.
1.4 Everyone has the right to respect for his or her privacy.
1.5 Everyone has the right to have his. or her moral and cultural values and religious and philosophical convictions respected.
1.6 Everyone has the right to such protection of health as is afforded by appropriate
measures for disease prevention and health care, and to the opportunity to pursue
his or her own highest attainable level of health.
2.1 Information about health services and how best to use them is to be made available to the public in order to benefit all those concerned.
2.2 Patients have the right to be fully informed about their health status, including the medical facts about their condition; about the proposed medical procedures, together with the potential risks and benefits of each procedure; about alternatives to the proposed procedures, including the effect of non-treatment; and about the diagnosis, prognosis and progress of treatment.
2.3 Information may only be withheld from patients exceptionally when there is good reason to believe that this information would without any expectation of obvious positive effects cause them serious harm.
2.4 Information must be communicated to the patient in a way appropriate to the latter’s capacity for understanding, minimizing the use of unfamiliar technical terminology. If the patient does not speak the common language, some form of interpreting should be available.
2.5 Patients have the right not to be informed, at their explicit request.
2.6 Patients have the right to choose who, if any one, should be informed on their
2.7 Patients should have the possibility of obtaining a second opinion.
2.8 When admitted to a health care establishment, patients should be informed of the identity and professional status of the health care providers taking care of them and of any rules and routines which would bear on their stay and care.
2.9 Patients should be able to request and be given a written summary of their diagnosis, treatment and care on discharge from a health care establishment.
3.1 The informed consent of the patient is a prerequisite for any medical intervention.
3.2 A patient has the right to refuse or to halt a medical intervention. The implications of refusing or halting such an intervention must be carefully explained to the
3.3 When a patient is unable to express his or her will and a medical intervention is urgently needed, the consent of the patient may be presumed, unless it is obvious from a previous declared expression of will that consent would be refused in the situation.
3.4 When the consent of a legal representative is required and the proposed intervention is urgently needed, that intervention may be made if it is not possible to obtain, in time, the representative’s consent.
3.5 When the consent of a legal representative is required, patients (whether minor or adult) must nevertheless be involved in the decision-making process to the fullest extent which their capacity allows.
3.6 If a legal representative refuses to give consent and the physician or other provider is of the opinion that the intervention is in the interest of the patient, then the decision must be referred to a court or some form of arbitration.
3.7 In all other situations where the patient is unable to give informed consent and where there is no legal representative or representative designated by the patient for this purpose, appropriate measures should be taken to provide for a substitute decision making process, taking into account what is known and,, to the greatest extent possible, what may be presumed about the wishes of the patient
3.8 The consent of the patient is required for the preservation and use of all substances of the human body. Consent may be presumed when the substances are to be used in the current course of diagnosis, treatment and care of that patient.
3.9 The informed consent of the patient is needed for participation in clinical teaching.
3.10 The informed consent of the patient is a prerequisite for participation in scientific research. All protocols must be submitted to proper ethical review procedures. Such research should not be carried out on those who are unable to express their will, unless the consent of a legal representative has been obtained and the research would likely be in the interest of the patient.
As an exception to the requirement of involvement being in the interest of the patient, an incapacitated person may be involved in observational research which is not of direct benefit to his or her health provided that that person offers no objection, that the risk andfor burden is minimal, that the research is of significant value and that no alternative methods and other research subjects are available.
4. CONFIDENTIALITY AND PRIVACY
4.1 All information about a patient’s health status, medical condition, diagnosis, prognosis and treatment and all other information of a personal kind must be kept confidential, even after death.
4.2 Confidential information can only be disclosed if the patient gives explicit consent or if the law expressly provides for this. Consent may be presumed where disclosure is to other health care providers involved in that patient’s treatment.
4.3 All identifiable patient data must be protected. The protection of the data must be appropriate to the manner of their storage. Human substances from which identifiable data can be derived must be likewise protected.
4.4 Patients have the right of access to their medical files and technical records and to
any other files and records pertaining to their diagnosis, treatment and care and to receive a copy of their own files and records or parts thereof. Such access excludes data concerning third parties.
4.5 Patients have the right to require the correction, completion, deletion, clarification and/or updating of personal and medical data concerning them which are inaccurate, incomplete, ambiguous or outdated, or which are not relevant to the purposes of diagnosis, treatment and care.
4.6 There can be no intrusion into a patient’s private and family life unless and only if, in addition to the patient consenting to it, it can be justified as necessary to the patient’s diagnosis, treatment and care.
4.7 Medical interventions may only be carried out when there is proper respect shown for the privacy of the individual. This means that a given intervention may be carried out only in the presence of those persons who are necessary for the intervention unless the patient consents or requests otherwise.
4.8 Patients admitted to health care establishments have the right to expect physical facilities which ensure privacy, particularly when health care providers are offering them personal care or carrying out examinations and treatment.
5. CARE AND TREATMENT
5.1 Everyone has the right to receive such health care as is appropriate to his or her health needs, including preventive care and activities aimed at health promotion.
Services should be continuously available and accessible to all equitably, without discrimination and according to the financial, human and material resources which can be made available in a given society.
5.2 Patients have a collective right to some form of representation at each level of the health care system in matters pertaining to the planning and evaluation of services, including the range, quality and functioning of the care provided.
5.3 Patients have the right to a quality of care which is marked both by high technical standards and by a humane relationship between the patient and health care providers.
5.4 Patients have the right to continuity of care, including cooperation between all health care providers and/or establishments which may be involved in their diagnosis, treatment and care.
5.5 In circumstances where a choice must be made by providers between potential patients for a particular treatment which is in limited supply, all such patients are entitled to a fair selection procedure for that treatment. That choice must be based on medical criteria and made without discrimination.
5.6 Patients have the right to choose and change their own physician or other health care provider and health care establishment, provided that it is compatible with the functioning of the health care system.
5.7 Patients for whom there are no longer medical grounds for continued stay in a health care establishment are entitled to a full explanation before they can be transferred to another establishment or sent home. Transfer can only take place after another health care establishment has agreed to accept the patient. Where the patient is discharged to home and when his or her condition so requires, community and domiciliary services should be available.
5.8 Patients have the right to be treated with dignity in relation to their diagnosis, treatment and care, which should be rendered with respect for their culture and values.
5.9 Patients have the right to enjoy support from family, relatives and friends during the course of care and treatment and to receive spiritual support and guidance at all times.
5.10 Patients have the right to relief of their suffering according to the current state of
5.11 Patients have the right to humane terminal care and to die in dignity.
6.1 The exercise of the rights set forth in this document implies that appropriate means
are established for this purpose.
6.2 The enjoyment of these rights shall be secured without discrimination.
6.3 In the exercise of these rights, patients shall be subjected only to such limitations as
are compatible with human rights instruments and in accordance with a procedure prescribed by law.
6.4 If patients cannot avail themselves of the rights set forth in this document, these rights should be exercised by their legal representative or by a person designated by the patient for that purpose; where neither a legal representative nor a personal surrogate has been appointed, other measures for representation of those patients should be taken.
6.5 Patients must have access to such information and advice as will enable them to exercise the rights set forth in this document. Where patients feel that their rights have not been respected they should be enabled to lodge a complaint. In addition to recourse to the courts, there should be independent mechanisms at institutional and other levels to facilitate the processes of lodging, mediating and adjudicating complaints. These mechanisms would, inter alia, ensure that information relating to complaints procedures was available to patients and that an independent person was available and accessible to them for consultation regarding the most appropriate course of action to take. These mechanisms should further ensure that, where necessary, assistance and advocacy on behalf of the patient would be made available. Patients have the right to have their complaints examined and dealt with in a thorough, just, effective and prompt way and to be informed about their outcome.
In these Principles of the Rights of Patients in Europe, the following terms have been used
with the meanings given:
PATIENT(S) User(s) of health care services, whether healthy or sick,
DISCRIMINATION Distinction between persons in similar cases on the basis of race, sex, religion, political opinions, national or social origin, associations with a national minority or personal antipathy.
HEALTH CARE Medical, nursing or allied services dispensed by health care providers and health care establishments.
HEALTH CARE PROVIDERS Physicians, nurses, dentists or other health professionals.
MEDICAL INTERVENTION Any examination, treatment or other act having preventive, diagnostic, therapeutic or rehabilitative aims and which is carried out by a physician or other health care provider.
HEALTH CARE ESTABLISHMENT Any health care facility such as a hospital, nursing home or establishment for disabled persons.
TERMINAL CARE Care given to a patient when it is no longer possible to improve the fatal prognosis of his or her illness/condition with available treatment methods; as well as care at the approach of death.