Patients' Rights and Responsibilities

INTRODUCTION

Welcome to the Hong Kong Medical Association's Patients' Rights and Responsibilities Hotline. This hotline provides you with information on patients' rights and responsibilities. For Cantonese please press 1, for English please press 2.

I. PATIENTS' RESPONSIBILITIES

To play an active and responsible role in the healthcare process, you should

II) PATIENTS' RIGHTS

[2.1.1] Right of information.
A patient should have a reasonable and balanced understanding of the sickness he is suffering from. You may enquire about what disease you have, if you need any further examination, and how to cure the disease. You should also know what treatment you will receive, whether with drugs or operation, any side effects after treatment, and the chances of recurrence. In other words, in order to know more relevant facts about your sickness, you should consult your attending doctor.

[2.1.1.1] Charges
You could enquire about the charges for medical services and treatments you receive.

In public medical institutions, the charges are usually all inclusive, but you may be required to pay for special items such as cardiac pacemaker and intraocular lens. You could enquire about the charges beforehand. In private clinics, you could also enquire about the charges beforehand, such as the consultation fee. After consultation you could also enquire about the estimates of laboratory testing fee, fee for drugs, hospital beds or operations etc.

[2.1.1.2] Drugs.
A patient could enquire about the prescription given by the doctor.

All prescriptions by doctors will include the name of the medicine so that you will know what the medicine is, its use, dosage, and most common side effects. However, you should not go to the drugstore and buy the prescribed medicine without doctor's prescription even though you know the names of the drug. Nor should you take medicine without doctor's prescription. On the other hand, drug stores should not sell prescription-only drugs to a patient and such drugs should be clearly labeled in any case.

[2.1.2] Right of refusal
A patient could refuse the doctor's recommendations for treatment. But before you reject the doctor's advice, you should know what the consequences are. For instance if you really have a problem with inflammation of your appendix and refuse an operation, it may lead to fatal consequences. It is advisable that you consider the consequences carefully before refusing the recommended treatment and you should be fully responsible for your decision.

[2.1.3] Right of confidentiality
The personal information of patients should be highly confidential. Doctors and medical personnel are obliged to maintain confidentiality. During the course of your medical treatment, the doctor should not disclose to any third party any information about you, your family, and your sickness. However, there are certain exceptions. The doctor may discuss your case with a third party if you have given him permission. Also, when your employer wants to know about your situation, or when you apply for sick leave which requires an explanation, or when you claim for medical insurance, you could give permission to the doctor to disclose your situation.

Also, the medical staff who are involved in your treatment need to know about your situation. As a responsible citizen, the doctor sometimes may disclose your information to the relevant authorities when illegal activities are suspected to be involved. But these are just very exceptional cases.

Medical Reports

[2.2.1] Public medical institutions.
Public medical institutions include public hospitals and clinics under the supervision of the Hospital Authority and the Department of Health. If you have been treated in a public hospital and want to know about the medical examination or results, you may have access to this information. You may enquire about your medical record or request for a medical report. If the medical report is requested by the patient for referral, it should be given to you free of charge. But in cases of insurance claim, emigration, or application for housing estates, a reasonable administrative charge is required. On the other hand, a medical record is the data recorded everyday by the medical staff and is the property of the hospital authorities, and may not be given to you. You may ask for a duplicate of such record.

Medical Reports

[2.2.2]Private hospitals and practitioners.
If you receive your medical treatment from a private hospital or clinic, you could also have access to your medical report. You can request it from the doctor-in-charge. You may need to ask beforehand if a fee charge is involved.

You must distinguish between a medical report, which is a summary of your sickness and treatment issued by the doctor or the hospital, and a medical record, which is the data recorded everyday by the medical staff and is the property of the doctor or hospital. The request for access to both medical report and medical record may involve a fee charge.

[2.3] Complaints
In most cases, dissatisfaction about medical treatment results from misunderstanding. Open discussion with the medical practitioner about your sickness and treatment might resolve the misunderstanding. If you find the explanation unsatisfactory or unacceptable, you may complain to relevant parties.

Complaints

[2.3.1]Public medical institutions.
Public medical institutions include hospitals and clinics under the supervision of the Hospital Authority and Department of Health. If you have a complaint, you should raise it to the Patients Relations Officer who would then forward it to the Hospital Chief Executive. A special committee will handle and follow up your complaint and promise you an answer within a reasonable period of time.

You could also write to the Patient Advocate & Complaint Management Section of the Hospital Authority to voice your dissatisfaction with their service. If you find the explanation of the authority unsatisfactory, you can appeal to the Public Complaint Committee for a redress of your complaint. Both the Patient Advocate & Complaint Management Section and the Public Complaint Committee are located in the Hospital Authority Building, 147B Argyle Street Kowloon. Tel: 23006748.

All the general outpatient clinics are managed by the Department of Health. If you have a complaint, you should write to the Client Relations Unit, Department of Health, 17/F, Wu Chung House, 213 Queen's Road West., Wanchai, Hong Kong. You may also call them at 28360077.

Complaints

[2.3.2] Private practitioners.
In private hospitals, there are also complaint mechanisms. You could lodge your complaint with the hospital superintendent or the doctor-in-charge. In private clinics you could raise your complaint to the doctor.

[2.3.3] Other complain mechanisms
If the complaint does not involve professional misconduct, but concerns fee charges or the attitude of a particular medical practitioner, you could launch your complaint to the Consumer Council. The address is 22/F, Ka Wah Centre, No.191, Java Road, North Point. Tel: 2929 2222.

If you want to complain about the professional conduct of a medical practitioner, you could write to the Medical Council which governs the professional conduct of all registered doctors in both public and private hospitals. The address of the Medical Council is 17/F, Wu Chung Building, Queen's Road East. Tel: 29618648.

Also, you could hire your own legal adviser to file a law suit or apply to the Legal Aid Department.

[2.4] Operations
If a surgical operation is recommended to you by the doctor, you need to know what type of operation it is and what alternative treatments are available to you.

Operations

[2.4.1]Public and Private Medical Institutions
If an operation is the best treatment for your sickness, you should know the consequences of not having the operation. If you are still uncertain about the recommendation, you could consult another doctor or another hospital.

If you have decided to have an operation, you should know what type of operation it is, how it will be carried out, what type of anesthesia will be used, what the common side effects are and what risks may be involved.

You could choose to have the operation in public or private hospitals. But in either case, you need to know clearly beforehand the fee charges because even in public hospitals where the charges for an operation is minimal, certain items such as cardiac pacemaker and intraocular lens are charged to the patient. Please note that the charges for different classes of wards may vary.

According to legislation, people aged above 18 can sign the consent form themselves. For those aged below 18, it depends largely on individual cases.

According to the Mental Health Ordinance, a doctor can give urgent and non-urgent medical treatment to a mentally incapacitated adult without their consent if the treatment is necessary and in their best interest.