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For Patients

Your Safety & Patient Rights

For Your Safety

Everyone has a role in making healthcare safe. That includes doctors, healthcare executives, nurses and many healthcare technicians. Health care organizations all across the country are working to make healthcare safe. As a patient, you make your care safer by being an active, involved, and informed member of your healthcare teams.

The ‘Speak UP™’ program is sponsored by The Joint Commission. They agree that patients should be involved in their own healthcare. These efforts to increase patient awareness and involvement are also supported by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

This program gives simple advice on how you can help make healthcare a good experience, Research shows that patients who take part in decision about their own healthcare are more likely to get better faster. To help prevent health care mistakes, patients are urged to ‘Speak Up.’

The goal of the Speak Up™ program is to help patients and their advocates become more informed and involved in their healthcare.

Speak up if you have questions or concerns. If you still do not understand, ask again. It is your body and you have a right to know.

  • Your health is very important. Do not worry about being embarrassed if you do not understand something that your doctor, nurse or other health care professional tells you. If you do not understand because you speak another language, ask for someone who speaks your language. You have the right to get free help from someone who speaks your language.
  • Do not be afraid to ask about safety. If you are having surgery, ask the doctor to mark the area that is to be operated on.
  • Do not be afraid to tell the nurse or the doctor if you think you are about to get the wrong medicine.
  • Do not be afraid to tell a healthcare professional if you think he or she has confused you with another patient.

Pay attention to the care you get. Always make sure you are getting the right treatments and medicines by the right healthcare professionals. Do not assume anything.

  • Tell your nurse or doctor if something does not seem right.
  • Expect health are workers to introduce themselves. Look for their identification (ID) badges. A new mother should know the person who she hands her baby to. If you do not know who the person is, ask for their ID.
  • Notice whether your caregivers have washed their hands. Hand washing is the most important way to prevent infections. Do not be afraid to remind a doctor or nurse to do this.
  • Know what time of the day you normally get medicine. If you do not get it, tell your nurse or doctor.
  • Make sure your nurse or doctor checks your ID. Make sure he or she checks your wristband and asks your name before
    he or she gives you your medicine or treatment.

Educate yourself about your illness. Learn about the medical tests you get, and your treatment plan.

  • Ask your doctor about the special training and experience that qualifies him or her to treat your illness.
  • Look for information about your condition. Good places to get that information are from your doctor, your library, support groups, and respected websites, like the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) Web site.
  • Write down important facts your doctor tells you. Ask your doctor if he or she has any written information you can keep.
  • Read all medical forms and make sure you understand them before you sign anything. If you do not understand, ask your doctor or nurse to explain them.
  • Make sure you know how to work any equipment that is being used in your care. If you use oxygen at home, do not smoke or let anyone smoke near you.

Ask a trusted family member or friend to be your advocate (advisor or supporter).

  • Your advocate can ask questions that you may not think about when you are stressed. Your advocate can also help remember answers to questions you have asked or write down information being discussed.
  • Ask this person to stay with you, even overnight, when you are hospitalized. You may be able to rest better. Your advocate can help make sure you get the correct medicines and treatments.
  • Your advocate should be someone who can communicate well and work cooperatively with medical staff for your best care.
  • Make sure this person understands the kind of care you want and respects your decisions.
  • Your advocate should know who your health care proxy decision-maker is; a proxy is a person you choose to sign a legal document so he or she can make decisions about your health care when you are unable to make your own decisions. Your advocate may also be your proxy under these circumstances. They should know this ahead of time.
  • Go over the consents for treatment with your advocate and health care proxy, if your proxy is available, before you sign them. Make sure you all understand exactly what you are about to agree to.
  • Make sure your advocate understands the type of care you will need when you get home. Your advocate should know what to look for if your condition is getting worse. He or she should also know who to call for help.

Know what medicines you take and why you take them. Medicine errors are the most common healthcare mistakes.

  • Ask about why you should take the medicine. Ask for written information about it, including its brand and generic names. Also ask about the side effects of all medicines.
  • If you do not recognize a medicine, double-check that it is for you. Ask about medicines that you are to take by mouth before you swallow them. Read the contents of the bags of intravenous (IV) fluids. If you are not well enough to do this, ask your advocate to do it.
  • If you are given an IV, ask the nurse how long it should take for the liquid to run out. Tell the nurse if it does not seem to be dripping right (too fast or too slow).
  • Whenever you get a new medicine, tell your doctors and nurses about allergies you have, or negative reactions you have had to other medicines.
  • If you are taking a lot of medicines, be sure to ask your doctor or pharmacist if it is safe to take those medicines together. Do the same thing with vitamins, herbs and over-the-counter drugs.
  • Make sure you can read the handwriting on prescriptions written by your doctor. If you cannot read it, the pharmacist may not be able to either. Ask somebody at the doctor’s office to print the prescription, if necessary.
  • Carry an up-to-date list of the medicines you are taking in your purse or wallet. Write down how much you take and when you take it. Go over the list with your doctor and other caregivers.

Use a hospital, clinic, surgery center, or other type of healthcare organization that has been carefully checked out. For example, The Joint Commission visits hospitals to see if they are meeting The Joint Commission’s quality standards.

  • Ask about the healthcare organization’s experience in taking care of people with your type of illness. How often do they perform the procedure you need? What special care do they provide to help patients get well?
  • If you have more than one hospital to choose from, ask your doctor which one has the best care for your condition.
  • Before you leave the hospital or other facility, ask about follow-up care and make sure that you understand all the instructions.
  • Go to Quality Check at to find out whether your hospital or other health care organization is “accredited.” Accredited means that the hospital or health care organization works by rules that make sure that patient safety and quality standards are followed.

To contact The Joint Commission, please call 800-994-6610 or email

Participate in all decisions about your treatment. …. You are the center of the healthcare team.

  • You and your doctor should agree on exactly what will be done during each step of your care.
  • Know who will be taking care of you. Know how long the treatment will last. Know how you should feel.
  • Understand that more tests or medications may not always be better for you. Ask your doctor how a new test or medication will help.
  • Keep copies of your medical records from previous hospital stays and share them with your health care team. This will give them better information about your health history.
  • Do not be afraid to ask for a second opinion. If you are unsure about the best treatment for your illness, talk with one or two additional doctors. The more information you have about all the kinds of treatment available to you, the better you will feel about the decisions made.
  • Ask your doctor to recommend a support group you can join to help deal with your condition. People in these groups may help you prepare for the days and weeks ahead. They may be able to tell you what to expect and what worked best for them.
  • Talk to your doctor and your family about your wishes regarding resuscitation and other life-saving actions.

Patient Rights

As a patient in a hospital in New York State, you have a right, consistent with law, to:

  1. Understand and use these rights. If for any reason you do not understand or you need help, the hospital MUST provide assistance, including an interpreter.
  2. Receive treatment without discrimination as to race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, sexual orientation, source of payment or age.
  3. Receive considerate and respectful care in a clean and safe environment free of unnecessary restraints.
  4. Receive emergency care if you need it.
  5. Be informed of the name and position of the doctor who will be in charge of your care in the hospital.
  6. Know the names, positions and functions of any hospital staff involved in your care and refuse their treatment, examination or observation.
  7. A no smoking room.
  8. Receive complete information about your diagnosis, treatment and prognosis.
  9. Receive all the information that you need to give informed consent for any proposed procedure or treatment. This information shall include the possible risks and benefits of the procedure or treatment.
  10. Receive all the information you need to give informed consent for an order not to resuscitate. You also have the right to designate an individual to give this consent for you if you are too ill to do so. If you would like additional information, please ask for a copy of the pamphlet “Do Not Resuscitate Orders – A Guide for Patients & Families”.
  11. Refuse treatment and be told what effect this may have on your health.
  12. Refuse to take part in research. In deciding whether or not to participate, you have the right to a full explanation.
  13. Privacy while in the hospital and confidentiality of all information and records regarding your care.
  14. Participate in all decisions about your treatment and discharge from the hospital. The hospital must provide you with a written discharge plan and written description of how you can appeal your discharge.
  15. Review your medical record without charge. Obtain a copy of your medical record for which the hospital can charge a reasonable fee. You cannot be denied a copy solely because you cannot afford to pay.
  16. Receive an itemized bill and explanation of all charges.
  17. Complain without fear of reprisals about the care and services you are receiving and to have the hospital respond to you and if you request it, a written response. If you are not satisfied with the hospital’s response, you can complain to the New York State Health Department. The hospital must provide you with the Health Department phone number.
  18. Authorize those family members and other adults who will be given priority to visit consistent with your ability to receive visitors.
  19. Make known your wishes in regard to anatomical gifts. You may document your wishes in your health care proxy or on a donor card, available from the hospital.

Concerns/Problems/Complaints About Your Hospital Care

If you have concerns, problems or complaints related to any aspect of care during your hospital visit or stay, please speak to your physician, nurse or a hospital staff member. If you feel your physician, nurse or staff member has not resolved your concern, please contact the Patient Relations Manager at 315-785-4679 or by mail at Samaritan Medical Center, Attention: Patient Relations Manager, 830 Washington Street, Watertown, New York 13601.

You have the right to file your complaint with the New York State Department of Health regardless of utilizing Samaritan’s Patient Relations Program.

If you have a concern, problem, or complaint related to any aspect of care during your hospital stay, speak to your doctor, nurse, or hospital staff member. If the problem cannot be resolved by hospital staff, you may contact the New York State Department of Health by mail or by phone 1-800-804-5447 or by mail to:

New York State Department of Health
Centralized Hospital Intake Program, Mailstop: CA/DCS
Empire State Plaza
Albany, NY 12237

Questions or comments email –

If your concerns cannot be resolved through the hospital, you may contact the Joint Commission’s Office of Quality Monitoring to report any concerns or register complaints about a Joint Commission-accredited health care organization by either calling 1-800-994-6610 or by e-mailing

New York State Your Rights Booklet

Please download the Your Rights as a Hospital Patient in New York State Booklet.

Keep this booklet for reference. Review it carefully and share the information with your family and friends involved in your care.

The state and federal governments require that all hospital patients in New York State be given certain information and materials when admitted to a hospital. This booklet collects that information in one place, explains the rights of each hospital patient and contains advice for the patients on how best to get assistance.

You must have Adobe Reader in order to view or print this booklet.

Patient Guidebook

Click here read our entire hospital Patient Guidebook.

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