Understanding Care Providers’ Rights and Responsibilities
Human rights in patient care is a set of human rights principles, which is applicable in patient care. In many settings, both patients and providers face a variety of human rights abuses, which negatively affect women's health. Therefore, these principles are needed to protect the rights, health and dignity of both – patients and providers in maternity care, to address abuses and hold governments accountable.
There is no international human rights instrument specifically on patients' and providers' rights and responsibilities in maternity care. Though, general international standards on human rights in patient care, provided in international human rights instruments, are applicable and relevant in this process.
Under the Charter developed by White Ribbon Alliance in 2011, there are 7 patient rights, applicable specifically to maternity care. This includes the right of every women to be free from harm and ill treatment; privacy and confidentiality; dignity and respect; equality, freedom from discrimination, and equitable care; as well as liberty, autonomy, self-determination, and freedom from coercion; highest attainable level of health, together with the right to information, informed consent and refusal, and respect for woman's choices and preferences, which includes the right to her choice of companionship during maternity care, whenever possible.
It is critical that marginalized women, including ethnic minorities, women living with HIV, sexual minorities, disabled women, women who use drugs and sex workers are more vulnerable to the variety of violations in maternity care.
In addition to the above rights, patients have duties, which also stem from international instruments. In some cases patients have responsibilities to undergo medical intervention and to provide and receive information, when the rights of third parties are involved.
Critical rights relevant to providers include the right to enjoyment of decent and safe work conditions and equal employment opportunities based on sex, the right to fair remuneration and the right to strike. Other rights include the right to privacy and reputation, the right to association, the right to seek remedy for violations and the right to a due process when a doctor is dismissed from work or a patient sues against them.
Together with the above rights, providers are obliged to ensure care that is in consistence with the human rights of women in childbirth.
While patients are placed at the center, it is crucial for states and other actors to focus on both the rights of patients and providers in maternity care. Patient and provider rights are interrelated and interdependent - patient rights become illusory, if providers work in indecent conditions and are subject to coercion or punishment for ethical or other breaches without due process. There is an urgent need to recognize the link between the rights of patients and providers and to address systemic problems with joint advocacy efforts.
Napisao/la: Tamar Dekanosidze, Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association
Photo: Fotograf Michael Thomas, Frederiksberg