Patients' rights

A patient's bill of rights is a list of guarantees for those receiving medical care. It may take the form of a law or a non-binding declaration. Typically a patient's bill of rights guarantees patients information, fair treatment, and autonomy over medical decisions, among other rights.


Under the direction of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MOHFW), India's National Human Rights Commission drafted a Charter of Patients' Rights in 2018. Following a recommendation by the National Council of Clinical Establishments, MOHFW submitted the draft in the public domain for comments and suggestions on August 2018.[1]

The Charter draws upon different provisions relevant to patients' rights that were previously scattered across the Constitution of India, the Drugs and Cosmetic Act of 1940, the Clinical Establishment Act of 2010, and various judgments by the Supreme Court of India, among other sources. The Charter aims to:

  1. provide a reference for State Governments to enact or modify existing regulation.
  2. provide a framework of healthcare standards for service providers.
  3. And, raise awareness among patients about their rights.[2]

The charter by NABH is available on public domain at Patient_Charter-DMAI_NABH.

Recognized patients' rights

The Charter of Patients' Rights lists seventeen rights that patients are entitled to:[3]

Right to information: Every patient has the right to know what is the illness that they are suffering, its causes, the status of the diagnosis (provisional or confirmed), expected costs of treatment. Furthermore, service providers should communicate this in a manner that is understandable for the patient.
Right to records and reports: The patient has the right to access his/her medical records and investigation reports. Service providers should make these available upon the patients' payment of any photocopy fees as applicable.

Right to emergency care: Public and private hospitals have an obligation to provide emergency medical care regardless of the patients' capacity to pay for the services.

Right to informed consent: Patients have the right to be asked for their informed consent before submitting to potentially hazardous treatment. Physicians should clearly explain the risks from receiving the treatment and only administer the treatment after getting explicit written consent from the patient.

Right to confidentiality, human dignity and privacy: Doctors should observe strict confidentiality of a patient's condition, with the only exception of potential threats to public health. In case of a physical inspection by a male doctor on a female patient, the latter has the right to have a female person present throughout the procedure. Hospitals also have an obligation to secure patient information from any external threats.

Right to second opinion: Patients are entitled to seek a second opinion and hospitals should facilitate any information or records that the patient requires to do so.

Right to transparency in rates, and care according to prescribed rates wherever relevant: Hospitals should display the rates that they charge in a visible manner and patients should receive an itemized bill when payment is required. Essential medicines, devices and implants should comply with rates established by the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA).

Right to non-discrimination: Service providers cannot deny treatment on the basis of gender, caste, religion, age, sexual orientation or social origins. Additionally, it is against the Charter to deny treatment on the basis of a patients' health condition, including HIV status.

Right to safety and quality care according to standards: Hospitals must ensure a hygienic and sanitized environment to provide their services.

Right to choose alternative treatment options if available: Patients have the right to consider treatment alternatives and even refuse treatment.

Right to choose source for obtaining medicines or tests: Any registered pharmacy and laboratory is eligible to provide patients with goods and services they require.

Right to proper referral and transfer, which is free from perverse commercial influences: In case of transfers or referrals, the patient has the right to an explanation that justifies the transfer, as well as confirmation from the hospital receiving the patient about their acceptance of the transfer.

Right to protection for patients involved in clinical trials: Clinical trials should comply with all the standards and protocols under the Directorate General of Health Services.

Right to protection of participants involved in biomedical and health research: Studies involving patients should follow the National Ethical Guidelines for Biomedical and Health Research Involving Human Participants.

Right to take discharge of patient, or receive body of deceased from hospital: Patients have the right to be discharged and may not be detained at a health service provider facility because of procedural reasons such as payment disputes.

Right to Patient Education: In addition to information about their condition, patients have the right to know about public health services such as insurance schemes and charitable hospitals.

Right to be heard and seek redressal: Patients have the right to provide feedback and comments to their health service providers and file complaints as required. They additionally have the right to redressal in cases where any of their rights are violated.