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Patients' Rights and Responsibilities

Your Rights as a Patient

At Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, we support your right to know about your health and illness, and your right to participate in decisions that affect your well-being. Our own statement of patients' rights, incorporating state and federal law, describes the medical center's commitment to protecting your rights.

  1. You have the right to receive medical care that meets the highest standards of BIDMC, regardless of your race, religion, national origin, any disability or handicap, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, age, military service, or the source of payment for your care.

  2. You have the right to receive visitors of your choosing that you (or your support person, where appropriate) designate, including a spouse, domestic partner (including same-sex domestic partner), or another family member or a friend. You also have the right to withdraw or deny consent to receive such visitors. You have the right to visitation privileges regardless of race, religion, national origin, any disability or handicap, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, age, military service, or the source of payment for your care. Depending on clinical situations, personal safety risk, or security issues, BIDMC reserves the right to place restrictions on visitation as outlined below and as necessary. BIDMC limits visitation when it would interfere with the care of the patient and/or other patients based on a health care provider’s best clinical judgment. Limitations on the number of visitors, the age of visitors, and the times at which visitors may be present are reasonable and necessary measures dependent on the particular setting or circumstance. Examples of circumstances that could provide a basis for restricting visitation include, but are not limited to: where infection control is at issue; when visitation may interfere with the care of the patient or of other patients; when the hospital becomes aware of a court order restricting contact; if visitors engage in disruptive, threatening, or violent behavior of any kind; when the patient or patient’s roommate need rest or privacy; when the patient is undergoing care interventions; if there is a risk of exposure to unsafe conditions, such as radiation.

  3. You have the right to prompt, life-saving treatment in an emergency without discrimination based on economic status or source of payment, and to treatment that is not delayed by discussion regarding the source of payment. Except in an emergency, you may choose the facility, the physician, and the type of health service for your care, providing those you choose are able to care for you. You have the right to prompt and safe transfer to another facility if you cannot be treated at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

  4. You have the right to be treated respectfully by others, and to be addressed by your proper name without undue familiarity. Your individuality - including your cultural and personal values, beliefs and preferences, and your educational background - will be respected. When you have a question, you may expect to be listened to and receive an appropriate and helpful response. Although removal of your clothing may be necessary to properly perform many medical examinations and procedures, you may refuse to remove your clothing. When there are clinical and safety concerns about risks to you or to others, removal of clothing may be required. You have the right to receive care in a safe setting and to be free from restraint except in a situation when restraint is necessary to ensure your safety and the safety of staff involved and others. You have a right to feel safe in personal relationships, as this can affect your health and well-being. If you feel unsafe or if you are being hurt in any of your relationships, staff members at the medical center are available to help you plan for and maintain your safety.

  5. You have the right to privacy within the capacity of the medical center. If you are being cared for in a setting where there are others present, you can expect a sincere and reasonable attempt to keep all conversations confidential within the capacity of the medical center. When you are examined, you are entitled to privacy - to have the curtains drawn, to know what role any observer may have in your care, and to have any observer unrelated to your care leave if you so request.

  6. You have the right to seek and receive all the information necessary for you to understand your medical situation. You have the right to know the name and specialty of the doctors and other health care providers who are responsible for your care and to talk with these providers. You are entitled to know fully about the planned course of diagnosis and treatment (including an explanation of each day's procedures and tests), and your likely future medical course and prognosis. This is true regardless of your diagnosis. In addition, the law requires that you receive specific information in certain circumstances. For example, if you are receiving mammography services, you will receive specific information about this procedure. If you are suffering from breast cancer, you have the right to receive complete information on all alternative treatments that are medically viable. If you are having breast implant surgery, your surgeon will inform you of the risks associated with this procedure no later than ten days in advance of surgery. You will be given a written summary of this information. Prior to admission as a maternity patient, you will receive information regarding labor and delivery care specific to BIDMC, including the rate of cesarean section and the types of anesthesia administered at the medical center. If you are a victim of rape and are of childbearing age, you have the right to receive written information about emergency contraception, and to be offered and provided emergency contraception if you so request.

    You are entitled to seek and receive adequate instruction in self-care, prevention of disability, and maintenance of health. You have the right to ask your doctor or nurse any question about your health that concerns you. You have the right to have all reasonable requests responded to promptly and adequately within the capacity of the medical center. 

    You have the right to know who will perform an operation or a test and to receive a full explanation of the details in advance, in order for you to exercise your right to give informed consent or elect to refuse. If you agree to the diagnostic and therapeutic procedures recommended by your doctor, you may be asked to sign a consent form. If you refuse, you may expect to receive the best help that the medical center can still offer under the circumstances.

    You have the right to request and to receive additional medical consultation on your medical condition if you desire. You have the right to be fully informed of the nature and extent of the plan of treatment developed for you by your doctor and nurse, and the right to define any limits on that treatment when fully informed, should you desire to do so. You have the right to be informed about the outcome of care you receive.

  7. You have a right to know the identity and the role of individuals involved in your care. Because this is a major teaching hospital, there are many members of the health care team participating in your care and treatment. You may request that an individual not be assigned to your care and may expect that this request will be honored whenever this is possible without jeopardizing access to medical or psychiatric attention.

  8. You have a right to a full explanation of any research study in which you may be asked to participate. You also have the right to refuse to participate in research. Your refusal will not affect your access to care at BIDMC. BIDMC respects the rights of all individuals who choose to participate (or not participate) in research at BIDMC. For more information about BIDMC's human subjects' research program and your rights as a research participant, you may contact the human subjects protections office at 617-667-4524.

  9. You have the right to leave the medical center even if your doctors advise against it, unless you have certain infectious diseases that may influence the health of others, or if you are incapable of maintaining your own safety or the safety of others, as defined by law. If you decide to leave before the doctors advise, the medical center will not be responsible for any harm that this may cause you, and you will be asked to sign a "Discharge Against Medical Advice" form.

  10. You have the right to access your medical record. As a general rule, we do not recommend that you review your medical record in the midst of a hospital stay because, while you are an inpatient, your medical record is incomplete; it serves as documentation by your physicians and nurses of your current treatment. During your hospitalization, we urge you to direct questions to your physicians and nurses, but if you still wish to see your record, you have the right to do so. Patients who are no longer in the hospital and outpatients wishing to obtain copies of their medical record may make arrangements by calling the correspondence section of the medical records department at 781-234-0850. For your protection, we require signed authorization and positive identification to release medical record information. If you have questions about the information you acquire from your medical record, they should be directed to your physician. Records will be maintained in accordance with applicable laws and regulations, accreditation standards, and other requirements governing record retention. Records will not be destroyed before the appropriate retention period has expired.

  11. You have the right to inquire and receive information about the possibility of financial assistance. As there are many different options for assistance, the BIDMC financial assistance office will work with you to obtain the most suitable assistance available to you. You may request an itemized bill for the services you have received. You may also ask for an explanation of that bill. For inquires related to financial assistance, please contact the financial assistance office at 617-667-5661. Financial information provided to the medical center will remain confidential.

  12. You are entitled to know about any financial or business relationships the medical center has with other institutions, to the extent the relationship relates to your care or treatment.

  13. You have the right not to be exposed to the smoking of others. Because smoking is a health and safety hazard to smokers and to others, BIDMC is a smoke-free hospital. Smoking is not permitted anywhere in the medical center, including public areas, private and open offices, rest rooms, patient rooms, and outside areas in the immediate vicinity of medical center entrances and exits. Smoking materials are not for sale anywhere on medical center property.

  14. You have the right to take part in decisions relating to your health care. This includes participation in the development and implementation of your plan of care. You have the right to make informed decisions regarding your care, to receive information about your health status, and to request or refuse treatment. Upon admission to the medical center, you have the right to have a family member or personal representative and your own physician notified promptly. In accordance with Massachusetts law, you have the right to formally designate a substitute decision-maker who, in a situation in which you cannot make your own health care decisions, will be legally authorized to make these decisions for you. (For more information please read our pamphlet on the Massachusetts Health Care Proxy and talk with your physician, nurse, social worker, or pastoral services representative.)

  15. You have the right to appropriate assessment and management of pain. Your doctor and nurse will assess your pain and involve you in decisions about managing pain effectively.

  16. You have the right as a patient who may have limited English proficiency to have access, free of charge, to meaningful communication via a qualified interpreter either in person or by phone, as deemed appropriate. If you are a Deaf or hard of hearing patient, BIDMC will provide a certified interpreter either from the BIDMC staff interpreter service or the Massachusetts Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.

  17. You have the right to receive information about how you can get assistance with concerns, problems, or complaints about the quality of care or service you receive, and to initiate a formal grievance process with the medical center or with state regulatory agencies. Should you have concerns, problems, or complaints about the quality of care or service that you are receiving, you are encouraged to speak to the providers directly involved in your care. If the issue is not resolved to your satisfaction, or if you would like the help of someone not immediately involved, patient relations staff are available to help resolve the problem. Staff from patient relations can be reached using the contact information in the box above. If you find the above avenues unsatisfactory, you may choose to file a formal grievance with the medical center (via the patient relations office) or you may contact any of the following agencies:

    Massachusetts Board of Registration in Medicine
    200 Harvard Mill Square
    Suite 330
    Wakefield, MA  01880
    781-876-8200
    Fax number: 781-876-8381
    Online: www.massmedboard.org

    Massachusetts Department of Public Health
    Division of Health Care Quality
    Complaint Unit
    99 Chauncy Street, 11th Floor
    Boston, MA  02111
    800-462-5540
    617-753-8150
    Fax number: 617-753-8165
    Online: www.mass.gov/dph/dhcq

    [Or, if you have Medicare]
    MassPRO
    245 Winter Street
    Waltham, MA  02451
    800-252-5533
    Online: www.masspro.org

    The Joint Commission
    Office of Quality Monitoring
    One Renaissance Boulevard
    Oakbrook Terrace, IL  60181
    800-994-6610
    Fax number: 630-792-5636
    Online: www.jointcommission.org

  18. You have the right to have your spiritual and cultural needs addressed within the capacity of the medical center.

  19. You have the right to obtain a copy of the rules and regulations of the medical center that apply to your role as a patient.

Your Responsibilities as a Patient

To ensure the medical center's ability to provide you with the best care possible, we ask that you accept the responsibility to:

  1. Provide accurate and complete information regarding your identity, medical history, hospitalizations, medications, dietary supplements (herbal and other nutritional supplements), and current health concerns. Report any changes in health to care providers.

  2. Follow treatment plans recommended by physicians and other health care providers working under the attending physician's direction. Let care providers know immediately if you need clarification or do not understand your plan of care or the health instructions you are given.

  3. Participate and collaborate in your treatment and in planning for post-hospital care.

  4. Be part of the pain management team. If you are receiving pain medications, ask your medical team about pain management options. Use pain medication as prescribed and provide feedback if certain methods are not working well for you.

  5. Be considerate and respectful of other patients and medical center personnel. Do what you can to help control noise, and ensure that your visitors are considerate as well. Be respectful of medical center property.

  6. Follow medical center rules and regulations, including those that prohibit offensive, threatening, and/or abusive language or behavior, and the use of tobacco, alcohol, or illicit drugs or substances. Help ensure that your visitors are aware of and follow these rules.

  7. Provide the medical center with a copy of any advance directive or health care proxy designation you have prepared.

  8. Provide accurate and complete financial information and work with the medical center to ensure that financial obligations related to your care are met. Notify the medical center promptly if there is a hardship so that we may assist you as needed.

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Contact Information

Patient Relations
Silverman Institute for Health Care Quality and Safety
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
330 Brookline Avenue
Boston, MA 02215
617-632-0364
patientrelations@bidmc.harvard.edu