What rights do I have about the medical care that I receive?

You have a variety of legal rights about the medical care and/or treatment that you receive from your doctor, a hospital, or any facility providing medical services to you. Among these rights are the right to have information about the treatment that a healthcare provider is recommending for you, the right to consent to or refuse treatment, and the right to privacy in terms of your medical information and records.
First, if you are being treated by a healthcare provider for an illness, injury, or other medical condition, you have the legal right to be given certain information about your healthcare provider’s recommended course of treatment. For instance, if your doctor recommends that you take a certain medication, you have the right to information about why your healthcare provider has chosen the drug, facts about the drug’s potential side effects, dosage information, how it will affect your medical condition, and the likelihood that it will successfully treat your medical condition. Likewise, if your healthcare provider recommends that you undergo a surgical procedure, you have the right to information about the duration of the surgery, necessary surgical preparations, likely results of the surgery, any possible complications from the surgery, potential consequences if you choose not to have the surgery, and expected recovery time. Essentially, you are entitled to get all of the basic information about the course of treatment that your healthcare provider recommends, as well as any additional information that you might request.
Next, you have the legal right to consent to or refuse treatment for a medical condition. As long as you are competent to make decisions, and are not mentally incapacitated in any way, you have the right to make your own decisions about the medical treatment that you want, or don’t want, to receive. The bottom line is that you are legally entitled to make choices about your medical treatment. You have the right to decide whether to take a certain medication, whether to undergo surgery, and/or whether to begin a particular medical treatment.
Finally, you have a legal right to privacy with respect to your medical information and records under both federal and state law. No one has the right to access your medical information, including which medications you are prescribed, your diagnosis, or information about any surgery or treatment that you underwent or will undergo in the future. Unless you sign a written release of medical information form, your healthcare provider cannot share your medical information with anyone, even your spouse. There are some exceptions if you are a minor child, but if you are an adult, you are completely in control of your medical information.
However, there are some circumstances in which the law requires you to disclose personal medical information about yourself to third parties. For instance, in order to file a claim with your health insurance company, you normally must permit your healthcare provider to give the insurance company certain information about the medical services and/or treatment with which they provided you. If you are applying for a life insurance policy, Social Security Disability Insurance, or for leave from your place of employment under the Family and Medical Leave Act, you typically must disclose certain medical information upon request. 

The information on this page is meant to provide a general overview of the law. The laws in your state and/or city may deviate significantly from those described here. If you have specific questions related to your situation you should speak with a local attorney.

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