The COVID-19 pandemic has brought a lot of fear and anxiety with it. This fear (mostly unfounded) isn't just limited to the disease: often, it extends to a person who has the disease or has been in contact with them. (Read more: How to deal with the anxiety of living through a pandemic)

The stigma associated with COVID-19 has even led some people to resort to hostility or violence against patients, their relatives and even doctors across India (it is now punishable by law to attack a COVID-19 healthcare worker). 

However, an important thing to know is that even if you test positive for COVID-19, your identity cannot be revealed by the hospital and doctors without your approval, as per India's Patient Protection Act.

Though COVID-19 patients are quarantined and kept in separate facilities, it is done to prevent the transmission of the disease to other patients and healthcare practitioners.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 ensures the inherent dignity and equal rights to all humans as per the World Health Organization (WHO). This is what the patient rights are based on. Every country has its own set of patient rights.

Here are is a list of rights that every patient has in India. 

  1. Patient protection rights in India
  2. Patient’s responsibilities
Doctors for Patient rights in India

Patient rights are protected under various legal documents in India such as Article 21 of the Indian Constitution, the Consumer Protection Act 2019 and Indian Medical Council regulations 2002.

The Charter of Patient’s rights adopted by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), India, lists 17 rights that every patient has in the country. Here is a list of those rights:

Right to get a second opinion

Patients/caregivers have the right to get a second opinion from another physician of their choice. And the hospital should provide the patient with all the needed documents for the second opinion without any extra cost. 

The quality of the care to the patient should not be compromised just because of the decision. If anyone in the hospital discriminates against a patient just because they took a second opinion, they would be punishable under the Human Rights Act.

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Right to protection: for patients involved in health and biomedical research

Any patient who is involved in a biomedical or health research is protected under the ICMR’s (Indian Council for Medical Research) 2017 National Ethical Guidelines for Biomedical and Health Research Involving Human Participants. 

As per the guidelines, all patients involved in such research should be asked for informed consent and have the right to confidentiality and dignity. 

Any patient who gets harmed physically, socially, mentally or legally should be provided with proper compensation after due assessment.

Right to protection: for patients enrolled in clinical trials

Patients enrolled in clinical trials have the following rights:

  • The patient should be explained about the trial and should only be enrolled after they give written informed consent. The enrolled patient should be given a copy of the consent document which would contain all the basic information they need to know about the trial.
  • The patient should get the information about the name of the drug being tested involving the dosage and the date of administration of the drug.
  • In case the patient does not give consent or denies taking part in the trial, his routine care should not be compromised.
  • The privacy of the participants involved in the trial should be maintained at all times. 
  • All patients involved in a clinical trial should get free and appropriate medical care for any condition that arises during the time of the study. This should be irrespective of whether the problem has arisen due to the study or till it is established that the problem has nothing to do with the study.
  • Even if the problem has nothing to do with the study, ancillary care should be provided to the patients under clinical trials. This may be in the form of referrals to other facilities or whatever is appropriate.
  • In case the person dies, the immediate family should get compensation. Compensation is given to the patient in he/she gets disabled. Wherever applicable, the illness related to or not related to the trial (while the trial is going on) should be covered under insurance mechanisms.
  • Once the trials are complete, all the patients should be assured that they will get access to the best treatment methods that have been proven by the study.

Right to seek redressal

Patients have the right to give feedback both good and bad to the healthcare facility about their services.

It is the responsibility of the hospital and doctor to inform the patient about this right and how to give feedback in a simple and user-friendly way.

In case the patient is aggrieved, they or their caregivers have the right to seek redressal for their complaints and the infringement of their rights

All the complaints should be lodged in a systematic way including a registration number. The complaints should be tracked properly to ascertain that the redressal has been done.

All patients should be given a written account of the redressal within 15 days of the receipt of the complaint. The redressal mechanism should be fair and prompt.

Right to patient education

Patients have the right to know about their rights and their responsibilities, health insurance schemes, and ways to take redressal in case of any grievances. They should also be told about any major information about their health. 

Doctors and hospitals should provide all the information to the patients in their own language and in a way that is easily understood by them.

Right to take discharge of patient or receive the body of the deceased person

A patient has the right to get discharged from the hospital without being detained on the basis of hospital costs or on procedural grounds.

Caretakers have the right to get the body of the deceased patient and the body should not be withheld by the hospital on any grounds.

Right to proper referral and transfer

If a patient is being transferred or referred to another healthcare facility, they have the right to know why. The hospital should also inform the patient about his/her alternative options and confirm that the second healthcare facility has indeed confirmed/accepted the transfer. 

The patient has the right to get continuity of care at the second facility as well to be duly registered at both the health facilities. 

The hospital management has the responsibility to ensure proper referral and transfer of the patient. The referral should not be motivated by any commission, incentives or any other perverse business practices. Instead, it should be done in the best interest of the patient.

Right to choose the source for medicines and tests

Every patient has the right to chose a registered pharmacy they want to buy medicines from and to choose the registered and accredited laboratory (with qualified personnel) they want to get an advised test from. 

It is the responsibility of the doctor to inform the patient of this choice. Again, whatever choice the patient makes, it should not influence the treatment being given to them. 

Right to choose alternative treatment options (if available)

Patients and their caregivers have the right to chose between various treatment options (if they are available within the hospital). The doctor should inform the patient/caregiver about the availability of such options and the importance of informed consent if they want to opt for it. 

If at any time, the patient feels like they want to leave the hospital premises without completing the treatment, or if the patient refuses to take some kind of care (against medical advice), it would be the responsibility of the patient and their caregivers. However, the doctors and hospital staff should ensure that even after this decision, all the other rights of the patients are enforced.

Right to safety and quality care

Every patient has the right to get the best quality of care as per the current norms and standards. It is the responsibility of the hospital to provide proper infection control measures, and services like sanitation and clean drinking water (as per the BIS standards) to the patients while they are in the hospital.

Patients or their caretakers can ask for redressal to any harm done due to medical negligence or damage occurring due to deliberately delaying/withholding services.

Right to non-discrimination

No patient should be discriminated within the hospital on any basis. This includes the patient’s health status such as if they are HIV positive or have any other health condition but also the sex, gender, caste, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation and linguistic or geographical origins.

Right to transparency in care and rates

Every patient has the right to get an itemised bill mentioning all their expenses. The cost of the treatment, care, medicines, equipment etc should not exceed those set by the government and they should not be above the MRP (maxmimum retail price) of the said item. 

Patients have the right to ask for specific care or choice of medicine/treatment/devices depending on their ability to spend. 

All hospitals should have a list of the facilities they provide put up at a place where anyone can read it easily. The list should be both in English and local language. 

Right to confidentiality

Every patient has the right to keep his/her privacy unless it is somehow important to share the data for the sake of public health. 

The hospital administration should keep all the data regarding the treatment and testing procedures under secure and theft-proof storage. 

Female patients have the right to have a female person with them if the primary doctor is male. The dignity of every patient should be maintained at all circumstances. 

Right to informed consent

It is important to take the consent of the patient before performing any potentially risky or invasive procedure, chemotherapy or surgery for example. The primary treating doctor should inform the patient about all the risks and possible complications of the procedure and clear out all the queries of the patient/caregivers. Only when the patient/caregiver provides their consent should the procedure be done.

Right to emergency medical care

Every patient has the right to get appropriate emergency care (such as in case of injury) without being asked to pay for it first. Basic care should be provided to every patient irrespective of their paying capacity.

Hospitals should make sure that doctors are available for such a condition. The emergency care should be of good quality and should not compromise the safety of the patient.

Right to medical records and reports

Patients have the right to see and get the original copies of all their records right from diagnostic tests and treatment to discharge. The copies should be made available to the patient or his/her caretaker within 24 hours of admission or within 72 hours of discharge. 

In case of death, a written record of the death including the cause of death should also be given to the caretakers along with all the records.

The documents may be made available after paying the appropriate fee or for photocopying if the patient/caretaker wants them. The photocopying would be done on the patient’s expense.

Right to information

A patient has the right to know everything about the illness he/she has. This includes the severity of the disease (how severe or mild it is), the diagnosis (if it is confirmed or still provisional) and the risk of complications.

It is the responsibility of the doctor to explain all of this information to the patient in language that the patient can easily understand. If needed, the doctor should take help from some staff member who knows the local language and can help communicate with the patient.

The patient and his/her caretaker should be given information—in writing—about the total/expected cost of treatment both before and while the treatment is going on, especially if there are any complications or changes in the treatment modality. Also, the final bill should have a proper break down of the treatment costs and the patient/caregiver should get a payment receipt regardless of the mode of payment.

Finally, the patient has the right to know which doctor is responsible for treating him/her and what are the doctor’s qualifications.

Apart from the abovementioned rights, patients also have some of the following responsibilities

  • Patients should provide all the relevant information to their doctor about their health.
  • Patients should cooperate with their doctors during the treatment (keeping in mind all their rights) and take all the medicines at the right time and in the right dosage. 
  • A patient should maintain cleanliness in the hospital and should not trouble any other patient or hospital staff.
  • No patients and their caregivers should destroy hospital property or resort to violence against healthcare practitioners. They should be respectful of the dignity of doctors and the hospital staff as human beings and professionals.
  • The patients should take their responsibilities when they deny any recommended treatment or make any choice during the treatment.
Siddhartha Vatsa

Siddhartha Vatsa

General Physician
3 Years of Experience

Dr. Harshvardhan Deshpande

Dr. Harshvardhan Deshpande

General Physician
13 Years of Experience

Dr. Supriya Shirish

Dr. Supriya Shirish

General Physician
20 Years of Experience

Dr. Priyanka Rana

Dr. Priyanka Rana

General Physician
2 Years of Experience

Medicines / Products that contain Patient rights in India


  1. Clinical Establishments (Registration and Regulation) Act, 2010. Government of India; Charter of Patients’ Rights for adoption by NHRC
  2. World Health Organization [Internet]. Geneva (SUI): World Health Organization; Patients' rights
  3. Ghooi RB, Deshpande SR. Patients’ rights in India: an ethical perspective. Indian Journal of Medical Ethics. 2012; 9(4).
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