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Thursday, December 30, 2010

Assertiveness in the dr.'s office


by Francie Hornstein

The following information is meant for women going to clinics or doctor's office in areas where feminist health services are not available. These suggestions may help you assert your rights as a consumer of health services. They also provide us with defenses against the sort of professionalism which prevents us from having access to informaiton about our own bodies as well as control over our lives. These defenses are in now way permanent solutions, but measures to be used until women regain full control of the field of women's medicine.

1. All people have a legal right to read their own medical charts and records. You may also ask for a copy of your records.

2. You have a right to full and complete explanation of all examinations, treatments and medications. This includes informing you of possible risks, side effects, effectiveness and experimental nature of any medical care you receive.

3. It is often a good idea to call a clinic or doctor before your actual visit to ask some key questions: cost of various procedures, office routines, billing and insurance collection policies, if Medi-Cal or Medi-Caid are accepted, etc.

4. If you are addressed by your first name by office personnel (includding the doctor) you should feel free to relate to them on a first name basis also.

5. Married women have full rights to any and all medical treatment without the consent of their spouse. In most states this includes abortion, V.D. treatment, and sterilization procedures., If you are unsure about the laws in your state, consult a lawyer or a legal aid office.

6. In California, single women who are legal minors (under 18 years of age) are eligible for Medi-Cal for payment for the cost of an abortion. In most situations, this can be done without the consent or knowledge of parents.

7. A woman does not have to be a certain age or have a certain number of children in order to have an elective sterilization procedure. If you are denied the procedure on these grounds, it may be the policy of the doctor or hospital. Consult a lwayer or feminist group to pressure the facility or doctor to change. Also, check the laws of your state.

8. You have a right to read any literature accompanying any medication you are given. This literature, formerly included for th edoctor, often gives more complete information about the drug or device, the possible side effects and contra-indications (reasons some people should not take the drug). You may want to ask to see this literature or the Physician's Desk Reference, a book which includees this information.

9. You have a right to have all of your questions answered to the best of the ability fo the physicians or health workers.

10. If you were referred to the doctor or clinic by a women's center, women's group or a friend, you should mention that fact. A doctor may be more "on guard" to be on good behavior if he/she knows that more business may be gained or lost through your report back to the original referral source.

11. Take a friend with you if you wish. It always helps to have the support of a friend to serve as a patient advocate.

12. When you meet the doctor for the first time, shake hands and greet him/her. Any indication that you intend to be an ACTIVE participant in the visit will help in breaking the tradition of the patient as a passive object.

13. Try to learn as much basic information about your own body as you can. The more familiar you are with the anatomy and functioning of your body, the more able to assert yourself you will be.

* The document is also available for download (pdf) on our Self-Help Clinic page.

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