Be Informed: COVID-19 and Hospitalization: Know your rights

Published December 15, 2021

Tune in as I visit with Emily Cook, a legal expert, who has first hand experience with patients rights in the hospital. Many people end up in the hospital after contracting COVID-19, either because of complications from the virus or secondary conditions.

It can be frustrating not knowing how to navigate hospital protocols normally, and even more so with the implementation of many pandemic safety measures. YOU HAVE RIGHTS when it comes to treatment at a hospital.

Since it continues to appear that more COVID-19 patients are dying in hospitals because of hospital policies than the COVID-19, it is important that you know your rights, while in a hospital and are prepared for what you will encounter.

Hospitals have found themselves at the center of medical issues with regards to treatments plans, prevention protocols, and matters of ethics as the guidance from different government officials, agencies, and scientists has continued to shift over the course of the pandemic.

Here's a quick breakdown of what you will hear from Emily Cook, an attorney with Texas Right to Life in this video interview.

1. ACT EARLY
If you suspect you have COVID-19, act early. Get tested and, if positive, start treatment immediately. You can begin the Frontline Doctors protocol, apply for monoclonal antibody treatment, if available, and isolate away from others for 10 days.

2. BE PREPARED
Have a medical power of attorney and write up an advanced directive that clearly states what treatment you want in the event you are unable to advocate for yourself. You should have this prepared in advance so you don't have to worry about complications with treatment requests if you are hospitalized.

The person you designate for your medical power of attorney will be able to advocate for your wishes. If you are admitted to the hospital, let your medical power of attorney person handle the decision making from the beginning. This will eliminate confusion later on if your condition worsens and are no longer able to directly speak to the treatment team.

3. KNOW YOUR DISCHARGE PLAN
As soon as you or your loved one is admitted, ask your social worker/case worker what the plan for discharge is. They should be able to tell you this upfront.

If you, for any reason, do not agree with the physician's treatment plan, you may choose to leave the hospital. YOU DO NOT NEED A PHYSICIAN'S APPROVAL TO BE DISCHARGED. You may choose to tell them, "I want to discharge against medical advice." This will indicate to the hospital that you are serious about choosing your treatment options and may foster better communication with the hospital team.

You have the right to fire your doctor if your treatment requests are being ignored.

4. GET YOUR MEDICAL RECORDS and BE PERSISTENT
Ask and ask again. If you have a question, keep asking until you ask the right person and get an answer. Request your medical records, even while still admitted. You can specifically ask for records from the date of admission until the present.

This is not standard practice, but you are entitled to your records.

5. VISITATION RIGHTS
In 2021, the Texas Legislature passed SB572 which requires hospitals to allow patients unrestricted visitation by “Religious Counselor.” The intent of that legislation was to insure that if you have a belief in a religion and talk with others about that religion you are “Religious Counselor” and cannot be denied access to your loved one in the hospital.

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