Patients’ Bill of Rights was recently launched by Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, Vice President, Federal Republic of Nigeria. This bill guarantees patient’s fair treatment and autonomy over medical decisions.

The bill gives patients right to relevant information in a language and manner the patient understands, including diagnosis, treatment, other procedures and possible outcomes and right of timely access to detailed and accurate medical records and available services.

If the bill is passed into law, patients will have the following rights as duly provided for under the Nigerian law:

“Right to transparent billing and full disclosure of any cost, including recommended treatment plans, right to privacy and confidentiality of medical records, right to clean, safe and secure healthcare environment.

“Right to be treated with respect, regardless of gender, race, religion, ethnicity, allegations of crime, disability or economic circumstances, right to receive urgent, immediate, sufficient intervention and care, in the event of an emergency.

“Right to reasonable visitation in accordance with prevailing rules and regulations, right to decline care, subject to prevailing laws and upon full disclosure of the consequences of such a decision.

“Right to decline or consent to participation in medical research, experimental procedures or clinical trials, right to quality care in accordance to prevailing standards and right to complain and express dissatisfaction regarding services received.”

This bill is indeed the first of its kind in the Nigerian health sector and if it is passed into law, it has the tendency to improve the poor health indicators, prevent needless deaths in Nigeria and improve patients-doctors relationship, among other benefits.

According to the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, the goal of health services is to provide all patients with high quality health care in a manner that clearly recognises individual needs and rights.

Osinbajo said in order to effectively accomplish this goal, the patient and the health care provider must work together to develop and maintain optimum health, adding that government was not oblivious of the acute problem of the Nigerian healthcare challenges and was therefore, putting the right policies to address them.

The Director-General of the Consumer Protection Council (CPC), Babatunde Irukera, said, “Essentially, our comfort, lives and life expectancy are in part determined by the quality and delivery of healthcare services.

“Indeed, there are standards, and there are examples of those who operate above those standards and some who even gave their lives for the standards, such as heroes and heroines like late Dr. Stella Adadevoh and some of her colleagues who have paid the utmost sacrifice in saving the lives of others.

“Yet, there are many, who unqualified, pass themselves off as professionals, and others, who though qualified do not know, nor live up to applicable standards. This bill will assist healthcare professionals and professional associations to identify and eliminate these quacks, and educate those who are qualified, but unaware of their obligations and the rights of their patients,” he explained.

The Minister of Health, Professor Isaac Adewole said the bill identifies rights and privileges in a Patient-Care Giver relationship for the protection of all parties. He said the bill will help to promote higher healthcare standards.

Adewole said, “We must ensure that people have right to information, the right to proper explanation of their medical situation; the right to control decision-making with respect to their treatment regimen; the right to know when to, where to and how to secure a second opinion where necessary.”

Let us keep hope alive that the bill does not end up in papers, but it is being passed into law and fully implemented.

Fatima Usman-Aliyu (Pro-Bono Partner)