EESC opinion: Patients' rights

EESC opinion: Patients' rights

Key points

In the light of the European Charter of Fundamental Rights, the communication from the Commission Consultation regarding Community action on health services, the Statement of common values and principles in EU health systems adopted by the Health Council on 1 June 2006, the case law of the European Court of Justice in the field of patient mobility, the European Parliament report on patient mobility and healthcare developments in the European Union and the European Parliament resolution of 15 March 2007, the EESC calls on the European Commission to take initiatives enabling the implementation of health policy which respects patients' rights. This requires:

  • the gathering and analysis of comparative data on the regulatory and ethical obligations in force in each EU country,
  • the devising, in the most appropriate form, of a Community course of action applicable to issues in this field,
  • the planned evaluation of the application of the texts promulgated and policies decided,
  • the dissemination of the results of this work to the relevant national authorities and representatives of the various socio-professional and user groups concerned,
  • the establishment of a European Patients' Rights Day.

How effective individual rights turn out to be in practice will depend to a large extent on the collective responses which are made to support this initiative. That is why it is necessary to work for the adoption of health democracy, implying the collective involvement of users and their representation in different parts of the system.

Patients' rights are one expression among others of human rights, but by no means a separate category. They are the manifestation of the desire that no patient wants to be considered as a being apart and, above all, as someone on the margins of society.

There is a need to acknowledge that users of the healthcare system are becoming more vocal in making known their feelings about healthcare conditions on the basis of their own experiences and also because they are receiving increasingly more information.

Consequently, it is appropriate to ask about the position of the patient in the process of making decisions which concern him, in the interests of transparency of procedures and respect for individuals.

The issue at hand is not about adopting a legalistic consumerist approach but rather about recognising that the patient is sufficiently mature to take part in decisions affecting him on the basis of respect for his rights.

Giving a voice to users and their representatives is all the more necessary as health issues extend into other areas: methods of production, lifestyle, working conditions, environmental protection, etc. This implies social, economic and ethical choices which go beyond the sole responsibility of health professionals.