Monitoring Patient Rights -- a Clinical Seminar
Medicine and Law 2002; 21(3): 521-539
Israel enacted the Patient Rights Law in 1996. The Law embodies a movement from paternalism to autonomy in doctor-patient relations. The following year, law students at the Israeli Centre for Academic Studies participated in a clinical seminar designed to measure internalisation of the Law, through personal interviews with hospitalized patients. The seminar can be adapted for medical students. The methodology is taken from human rights field work. The objective is to use patient rights as indicators of quality of care in medical settings. Students studied the text and principles of the Law in light of personal testimonies taken from relatives and friends. They developed an open-structured questionnaire, and were trained in interviewing with due respect for the patients' dignity and privacy, and the need to obtain their free and informed consent to the interview. The interviews were conducted in Hadassah Hospital, Jerusalem, after receiving approval of the Helsinki Committee. The findings, though in no way statistically valid, are nonetheless interesting. Students received training in listening and advocacy skills. The approach is conciliatory rather than adversarial. The thesis is that respect for patient rights is an efficient tool for quality control, risk management, conflict resolution and prevention of litigation.