The Rajasthan Right to Health Care Act, passed by the Rajasthan State Legislative Assembly on March 21, 2023, draws attention to the issue of patients’ rights to healthcare, which rarely features in public debates. With the goal of ensuring health for all’, and, conversely, no denial of healthcare to any citizen,
the Act proposes to legally define collective and individual rights in healthcare, constitute state and district authorities and institute grievance redressal and social accountability mechanisms. In a calibrated move, the Act also details the rights of doctors and health care providers while laying down the duties of both doctors and the government.
A physician’s sacred duty to alleviate suffering, as reflected in the Hippocratic oath, dating back to the 5th century BCE, placed the doctor-patient relationship on an ethical and moral plane.
Paul Starr, in The Social Transformation of American Medicine, explains how industrialisation of medicine had repercussions on this relationship.
He traces this transition from caregiving in a personalised-sacred domain to the lucrative corporate business locked to businesses, including pharmaceuticals, medical education, instrumentation, clinical trials, and research.
The patient at the centre of it remained powerless and, often, a victim of this power structure.
This relationship changed radically post-World War II when industrialised allopathic medicine became the mainstay and integral to nation-building. In this corporate-institutional model of allopathic medicine, patient vulnerability is high.
The emphasis on an institutionalised mode of protecting patients’ rights has become imperative as demanded by citizens globally. From the patient’s point of view, therefore, this Act fulfils the historical void of protecting patient rights in India.