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Patient rights in the ICU 

Patient rights in the ICU
Patient rights in the ICU

Thaddeus M. Pope

and Douglas B. White

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date: 17 May 2022

To say that a patient has a ‘right’ is to say both that the patient has a ‘claim’ against the clinician for X and that the clinician owes a correlative ‘duty’ to X to the patient. Patient rights are only prima facie valid claims that must sometimes yield to other sufficiently compelling claims. Overriding a right can be either justified (an ‘infringement’) or unjustified (a ‘violation’). This chapter explains the nature and source of patient rights; analyses the scope of patient rights; describes five specific patient rights that are particularly relevant to critical care; discusses three key ways in which patient rights might be illegitimately violated; discusses how patient rights might be justifiably infringed by distributive justice concerns; discusses how patient rights might be justifiably infringed by clinicians’ assertion of their own rights, either on the basis of professional integrity or on the basis of personal conscience-based objections; and concludes by describing four leading mechanisms by which patient rights are balanced against clinician rights. Patient–clinician conflicts usually can be prevented or mediated. When conflict is intractable, it should be resolved through appeal to socially-accepted rules or managed through a fair process of dispute resolution.

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