Your Rights as a Patient

Federal and state laws provide for specific patient rights. At Brigham and Women’s Hospital, we recognize our responsibility to respect these rights as well as to inform you of them. This summarizes both federal law and the Massachusetts Patients’ Bill of Rights.

  • You have the right to obtain the name and specialty of the doctor or other person responsible for your care.
  • You have the right to have things explained in your preferred language.
  • You have a right to confidentiality of all records and communications concerning your medical history and treatment to the extent provided by law.
  • You have a right to a prompt response to all reasonable requests.
  • You have a right to request and receive an explanation as to the relationship, if any, of this hospital and your doctor to any other health care facility or educational institution, insofar as any such relationship relates to your care.
  • You have a right to request and receive information about financial assistance and free health care.
  • You have a right to obtain a copy of any rules or regulations of this hospital which may apply to your conduct as a patient.
  • You have a right upon request to inspect your medical records, request an amendment to, or receive an accounting of disclosures regarding personal health information, and for a reasonable fee, receive a copy of your record.
  • You have a right to receive a copy of your medical record free if you show that your request is to support a claim or appeal under any provisions of the Social Security Act in any federal or state financial needs-based benefit program.
  • You have a right to refuse to be observed, examined or treated by students or any other staff without jeopardizing your access to care.
  • You have a right to refuse to participate as a research subject.
  • You have a right to personal dignity, and to the extent reasonably possible, to privacy during medical treatment and other care.
  • You have the right to have your cultural, psychosocial, spiritual, and personal values, beliefs, and preferences respected.
  • You have the right to request pastoral and other spiritual services.
  • You have the right to pain management.
  • You have a right to quick life-saving treatment without discrimination due to economic status or source of payment.
  • You have the right, if you are a female rape victim of childbearing age, to receive medically and factually written information prepared by the commissioner of public health about emergency contraception; to be promptly offered emergency contraception; and to be provided with emergency contraception upon request.
  • You have a right, if refused treatment for economic status or lack of a source of payment, to prompt and safe transfer to a facility that agrees to provide treatment.
  • You have a right to informed consent to the extent provided by law.
  • You (or your representatives) have the right to participate in the creation and practice of your care plan. The hospital recognizes the health benefits provided by the presence of loved ones while patients are in the hospital. We welcome one designated family member or support person to stay with the patient at any time. This designated support person’s visits would only be limited by the patient’s need for medical care or treatments, rest, privacy and patient preference. A support person may be a spouse, adult child, parent, close relative, friend, domestic partner or different sex or same sex significant other.
  • You have a right, if suffering from any form of breast cancer, to complete information on all alternative treatments that are medically possible.
  • You have a right, if you are a maternity patient, to receive information about the hospital’s rate of cesarean sections and related statistics.
  • You have a right to request and receive an itemized explanation of your medical bill.
  • You have the right to discharge planning evaluation and to participate in the development of your discharge plan.
  • You have the right to make informed decisions regarding your care or to have those decisions carried out by your representative as permitted by state law. The right to make informed decisions includes being informed about your health status, being involved in care planning and treatment and being able to request or refuse treatment.
  • You have the right to create an advance directive which may include giving someone the right to make decisions about your care to a representative, as well as choosing a support person.
  • You have the right to quick notification of a family member or representative of your choice when you are admitted to the hospital.

Brigham and Women’s Hospital is committed to responding to patient’s issues or concerns about patient care and safety. We encourage patients and families to contact Patient Relations at 617-732-6636 if there is an issue or concern. If the concern is not resolved through this process, you have the right to file a grievance and you may contact any of the following agencies:

  • Massachusetts Department of Public Health, Division of Health Care Quality (617-753-8000), 67 Forest Street, Marlborough, MA 01752
  • Massachusetts Board of Registration in Medicine, 200 Harvard Mill Square Suite 330 Wakefield, MA 01880 781-876-8200
  • The Joint Commission at, using the “Report a Patient Safety Event” link in the “Action Center” on the home page of the website; By fax to 630-792-5636; By mail to Office of Quality and Patient Safety, The Joint Commission, One Renaissance Boulevard, Oakbrook Terrace, IL 60181
  • Or you can also file a civil rights complaint with the U.S Department of health and Human Services, Office for Civil Rights, electronically through the Office for Civil Rights Complain Portal, available, or by mail or phone at: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 200 Independence Avenue, SW Room 509F, HHH Building, Washington, D.C.20201 1-800-368-1019, 800-537-7697 (TDD) Complaint forms are available at

Your Responsibilities as a Patient

  • By taking an active role in your own health care, you can help your caregivers best meet your needs. That is why we ask you and your family to share with us certain responsibilities. They include:
  • Letting us know your expectations about hospitalization and treatment.
  • Asking questions and making sure you understand any instructions given to you so that you can safely care for yourself when you leave the hospital or doctor’s office.
  • Being open and honest with us about your health history, including all medications you are taking and any legal or illegal addictive substances you use.
  • Telling us about any situation at home or work that may affect your ability to care for yourself, so that we can direct you to resources that can help.
  • Letting us know if you feel you cannot follow a plan of care that has been prescribed – or telling us when things do not seem to be going well – so that, together, we can develop the right plan of care for you.
  • Appointing a health care proxy and completing an advance care directive, so that we can know what kind of care you wish to have should you become unable to tell us.
  • Expressing concerns to your caregivers in a respectful manner (if you need more help or are angry or upset about your care, a Brigham and Women’s Hospital Patient and Family Relations representative can help you.)
  • Being honest with us about your financial needs so that we may connect you to resources that can help cover your medical expenses.
  • Letting us know if you have objections to students or researchers participating in your care.
  • Being considerate of Brigham and Women’s Hospital staff and property, as well as other patients and their privacy.

It is the policy of Brigham and Women’s Hospital to treat all patients and not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, citizenship, alienage, religion, creed, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, age or disability.

We recognize that patients may face unique health care challenges, and we commit to caring for you with respect, dignity and cultural humility. Let us know how you identify yourself and how our services can best meet your needs.

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