THE HEALTH CONSUMER'S CODE OF CONDUCT
Consumerism and rights talk have transformed our society. This change is no more evident than in the doctorpatient relationship, which has developed from a largely paternalistic association into a partnership respecting the autonomy and rights of the patient.
These rights include the right to full information and to make informed decisions; the right to determine or refuse treatments; and the rights to confidentiality, courtesy, respect and responsive services.
But has consumerism swung the rights pendulum too far? Carolyn Wilson, a Canadian legal scholar, in her essay, Seeking a balance: patient responsibilities in institutional health care, notes that Rights talk for patients is alive and well . . ., but duties talk is sadly missing, especially when it comes to their application to patients.
With patient autonomy come patient responsibilities. Logically, these should be at the core of a health consumers code of conduct. Patient responsibilities, as advanced by Wilson, include
maintaining a healthy lifestyle;
being honest in disclosing health information and medications being taken;
compliance with agreed therapy and follow-up;
taking responsibility for decisions about and the consequences of non-compliance;
raising doubts and asking questions;
and maintaining a stable and long term association with the treating doctor.
For too long the rights talk of health consumerism has concentrated on the consumer, and it is time for a new focus. We should recognise patients responsibilities as well as their rights.
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