To get records, get referrals, get explanations, get scan results quickly and just generally deal with the health system effectively...you need to know your rights. Also, patients often don't want to "worry" their doctors, confusing personal feelings toward someone they like, with the ethical responsibilities of doctors.
The following is a rewritten summary [with additional comments], of the American Medical Association Statement on Fundamental Elements of the Patient-Physician Relationship. Click here for the EXACT statement, as it was written by the AMA. You may go to this site and print it out for your personal use.
- The patient has the right to:
- receive information [from doctors, but also from other sources, hopefully reputable]
- discuss risks, benefits, costs of any treatment
- discuss risks, benefits, costs of any treatment alternatives
- receive guidance
- receive copies or summaries of their medical records [you will need the operation report, and the scan reports and the histology/pathology report]
- have questions answered [you will need the reports translated into understandable English]
- be advised of possible conflicts of interest that their doctor might have
- AND to receive independent professional opinions. [This means your request for a 'sarcoma oncologist' should be honored without a problem.]
- The patient has the right to make decisions regarding his/her health care. Patients may accept, refuse, or postpone any medical treatment. [No matter how much you like and trust the doctor, you are the one that bears the brunt of any medical decision.]
- The patient has the right to: courtesy & respect & dignity & responsiveness and timely attention to his or her needs. [This is sometimes a problem with scan results, when it can take more than a week to get the results. Raise the issue with the doctors, and see if you can help make the system more efficient.]
- The patient has the right to confidentiality. The doctor may reveal information about you: to other treating medical professionals as provided by law in certain protection of third party situations. Otherwise, he needs your consent to reveal information.
- The patient has the right to continuity of health care. Doctors must cooperate with other health care providers to deliver it. Doctors may not stop treatment of a patient if further treatment is indicated without giving the patient reasonable help and time to make alternative arrangements. [NOTE: If you request copies of your records for continuity of care, there may be a lesser monetary charge for copying them.]
- The patient has a basic right to have available adequate health care. "Physicians should advocate for patients in dealing with third parties when appropriate."
from "Fundamental Elements of the Patient-Physician Relationship" an American Medical Association Statement. Click here to go to the site and print it out for your personal use.