Human rights are the rights belonging to every person notwithstanding race, sex, faith, ethnicity, or any other quality. The core concept of human rights suggests that everyone has equal possibilities. Arda (2003) remarks that people’s freedoms should be harmonious with the others’ rights and that these rights should not be disregarded. Therefore, people have not only rights but also obligations concerning others. Human rights in health care present a crucial issue as nurses are responsible for satisfying patients’ rights for fair treatment. The health care right is asserted in Article 49 of the Constitution which declares that “state is responsible for ensuring living with physical and mental health for everyone” (Elçioğlu & Kirimlioğlu 2003).
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For better protection of people’s freedoms, the United Nations released the Universal Declaration of Human Rights at the end of 1940s (Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948). Article 25 of the Declaration states, “everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of sickness” (Arda 2003; Elçioğlu & Kirimlioğlu 2003). The right to medical treatment can be exercised in the process of disease identification, care, and observation (Arda 2003). Patients’ freedoms include the possibility to choose the hospital and treatment methods and agreement or refusal to accept the suggested techniques (National Student Nurses Association, Inc. 2014). People’s rights to health care have been promoted by numerous declarations and bills. However, many questions remain unanswered, which leads to intense debates over proper regard of patients’ rights.
One of the attempts to defend patients’ rights was made by the introduction of the World Medical Assembly Declaration of Lisbon on the Rights of the Patients at the beginning of the 1980s (Çobanoğlu 2009). While it was considered to be a progressive step in the development of the issue, many professionals believe that the Declaration did not cover all vital aspects. For instance, it has been noted that nursing students are not fully aware of patients’ rights significance (Merakou et al. 2001; Woogara 2005; Nasiriani, Farnia, & Nasiriani 2007; Iltanen et al. 2012; Ghodsi & Hojjatoleslami 2012). Another study shows that even with proper knowledge of patients’ rights, nurses frequently disregard them (Rad, Mohammd, & Esna Ashari 2004). Thus, the concept of patient rights is drawing the attention of specialists who want these freedoms to be cultivated and adapted.
In the modern human rights movement, the need for regulation of the issues appearing as a result of technical and scientific progress inspires a lot of discussions (Oğuz 2001; Özdemir et al. 2006). The researchers emphasize the need for nurses to know their duties concerning patient rights (Erer, Atici, & Erdemir 2008). Being the closest part of personnel contacting with the patients, nurses need to be fully aware of patient rights and conform to them (Larsson et al. 2007; Demircan, Özer, & Beydag 2008; National Student Nurses Association, Inc. 2014). The quality of health care depends on nurses’ compliance with the patient- and work-oriented trends (Bernal 1992; Larsson et al. 2007). Many scholars (Elçioğlu & Kirimlioğlu 2003; Özdemir et al. 2006; Bostan, Acuner & Yilmaz 2007; Demircan, Özer, & Beydag 2008) consider nurses’ perspective on patient rights as an essential element of adequate caregiving. Proper realization of professional duties may prevent legal issues between hospitals and patients (Utkualp & Yildiz 2012). It is necessary to obey the rules and be completely aware of people’s rights.
People’s ethical principles are shaped under the influence of social values and beliefs. While some of these values may differ in various communities, there are things in common for every environment. Societal ethical principles define the nurses’ opinion on patients’ rights. Medical workers’ ethical behaviour is best visible in difficult situations (Puka 2008). One of the reasons why nurses need to be aware of patient rights is concerned with the need to defend their patients from procedures which they do not wish to undergo. A nurse needs to integrate the knowledge of human rights, legislation, and ethics (Demircan, Özer, & Beydag 2008; Puka 2014).
Ethical views have a great impact on such issues as organ transplant, abortion, and human fertilization. Consideration of patients’ rights presents a standard for medical services. Every society collects its most important concepts in the patients’ bill of rights. Such a collection of regulations has an objective of defending the rights of the patients and providing sufficient care. Conforming to the bill of rights promotes a better relationship between patients and nurses (Bostani Khalasi, Masole, & Abedinzade 2012). Moreover, compliance with these rules improves the quality of hospital care.
Not only nurses’ awareness of patient rights is essential for achieving the best treatment outcomes. Medical workers note that the patients’ knowledge of the bill of rights could essentially promote its better enactment. Patient satisfaction is believed to enhance on conditions of patients’ awareness of their possibilities. Moreover, it has been noted that the higher the patients’ perception is, the better their rights are complied by the nurses (Joolaee, Nikbakht-Nasrabadi, & Parsa-Yekta 2009). A lot of research is dedicated to the degree of observance of different elements of patient rights for all the stakeholders: patients, medical workers, and other associates.
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Researchers note that awareness of patient rights is not enough to provide successful implementation of these rights. Many other factors play their role, among which there are environmental, demographic, cultural, and socioeconomic issues. Two kinds of patient rights are differentiated: the rights concerned with the treatment and the rights concerned with receiving it. It is noted in the Declaration on the promotion of patients’ rights in Europe that the bill of rights has to be exhibited in a place that everyone can access (Leene 1994). People have to be aware of their right to dignity, respect, protection, security, and privacy. Also, the patient’s cultural and religious values should be taken into consideration to provide proper care and avoidance of disease. Moreover, people have a right to obtain information about the available health facilities and their use, a right to get information about their health status, a right to complain if they are dissatisfied with treatment, and a right to refuse treatment. Finally, patients have a right to privacy, autonomy, and confidentiality.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia cares about its people and their interests. Thus, The Patients’ Bill of Rights (PBR) is available at the Saudi Ministry of Health website (Ministry of Health of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia 2012). The PBR is also accessible in most of the Saudi health care facilities as a written document. Unfortunately, even under such circumstances, many patients are not acquainted with their rights declared by the Saudi government via regulations and policies of the Ministry of Health. For instance, Alghanim (2012) conducted a study aimed at evaluating the knowledge of PBR by the citizens.
Five hundred care providers and an equal number of patients from primary health care centres in Riyadh took part in the questionnaire. The outcomes demonstrated a lack of awareness about the Patients’ Bill of Rights postulates both by nurses and patients (Alghanim 2012). On the contrary, a hospital-based survey on patients’ understanding of their privileges in Riyadh demonstrated a high degree of right awareness among the patients. The research results illustrated that patients’ rights awareness was influenced by such factors as gender, age, job, and education level (Halawany 2012). These factors are dissimilar in various countries.
Patient rights have diverse representation in many parts of the world. Whereas there is a tendency towards the increase of the importance of this issue globally, it still meets some obstacles in Saudi Arabia. In our country, it is difficult to find a unanimous approach towards patient rights as each hospital has divergent policies and regulations. The Ministry of Health of the Kingdom published the Patients’ Bill of Rights in 2001. It is available online and in printed version in health care facilities. However, despite its wide representation at all levels, people tend to remain unaware of the policies described in the bill. Therefore, it is necessary to better acquaint people with their rights. Being informed about one’s freedoms is being defended against right violations. Patient rights are of particular importance as people receiving treatment should be able to choose the desired facilities and methods. Promoting patient rights in Saudi Arabia will lead to improvement of the quality of care.
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