Know your 9 patient rights and responsibilities

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It’s easy to leave it all to our doctors when it comes to our health. After all, we consult them because they are the experts. Newcomers, especially, may feel intimidated or scared to ask questions or assert themselves when they are dealing with a doctor or nurse. We must remember that in Canada, it is important that we take an active part in the process to get the most out of healthcare services.

As a patient, you have rights, as well as responsibilities that help you become a more involved and engaged patient. You have the following rights:

  1. Ask questions and get answers in a timely manner.

    Ask the three questions: What is my health problem? What do I need to do? Why do I need to do this? You have the right to be clear about the details of your consultation and understand the treatment (or medication) before it is administered.

  2. Seek a second opinion.

    If you are not satisfied with your doctor’s diagnosis or prescribed treatment, you can get a second opinion. You can ask your doctor for a referral to another specialist.

  3. Ask about your healthcare provider’s experience and training.

    It is your right to know more about who is treating you. You may ask politely about the education, background, and training of your health provider or your health care team.

  4. Be informed before you willingly give or refuse consent.

    You must be given all the facts you need before making a decision. This includes information about:

    • benefits and risks
    • possible side effects
    • treatment choices
    • who will provide the treatment
    • how the treatment will be done
    • results of refusing the treatment

    Parents or guardians may decide for children up to 18 years old (in some regional health authorities, the age of consent is 16 years old).

  5. Access your personal health information in your medical records.

    Manitoba’s Personal Health Information Act (PHIA) allows you to get information in your medical records (with limited exceptions). It also gives you control as to who can and can’t have access to your personal health information (PHI).To know more about the PHIA, download the brochure Health Information Access and Privacy (A guide to the Personal Health Information Act).

  6. Your PHI includes:

    • Your name, address and Personal Health Identification Number (PHIN)
    • Facts about your health, healthcare history and family history
    • Facts about the care you are receiving
    • Facts about payment for your healthcare
  7. Get help from a patient advocate.

    If you are unable to communicate with your healthcare provider due to language barriers or illness, you can assign a patient advocate. A patient advocate is “a person you choose to support you or act on your behalf. He or she will talk to members of your healthcare team, such as your family doctor or nurse” (Manitoba Institute for Patient Safety). That person can be a trusted relative or friend. He or she must be able to devote time to help you. Ideally, you should name your patient advocate before you need one. You can download the SAFE Toolkit – Choose your Patient Advocate to learn more about their roles and responsibilities.

  8. Decide the type of care you do and do not want to receive.

    You have the right to make your own healthcare decisions. You can speak through your advocate or fill out a Health Care Directive or Living Will in case you are unable to speak for yourself.

  9. Voice your concerns.

    You have the right to be heard without interruptions. You can ask questions, share your views about your care, or tell your doctor about your complaints and concerns about your treatment.

  10. Report any unplanned harm.

    You have the right to be informed if a critical incident (CI) occurs while you are receiving healthcare. A critical incident is “an unplanned and undesired event that occurs when a patient receives health services. It results in serious harm to the patient (injury, disability, death). It is not related to the patient’s main health condition” (Patient Safety Definitions, MIPS). If nothing has been reported but you feel that a CI occurred, you may report it. Call the Critical Incident Reporting Line at (204) 788-8222 in Winnipeg or contact your regional health authority office if you live elsewhere in Manitoba.

Adapted from the MIPS Know your Patient Rights (full version).

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Community Resources

Manitoba Health is where you can get more information about healthcare services. It has quick links to many province-wide resources.

Manitoba Institute for Patient Safety – It’s Safe to Ask is an initiative to improve health literacy in Manitoba. Go to their website to access easy-to-read materials (in various languages)to help you become more informed and involved in your healthcare.

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