Patient Rights & Responsibilities

Know your rights and understand your responsibilities as a patient

Your Rights and Responsibilities as a Patient

At Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital–Needham, we support your right to know about your health and condition. We champion your right to participate in decisions that affect your well-being.


If you have questions about patient rights and responsibilities or a complaint, call the Case Management office at 781-453-5414.

Your Patient Rights

You have many rights as a patient. Our list of patients’ rights includes state and federal law. The rights and responsibilities of patients unable to make their own decisions are protected by the patient's guardian, health care agent or legal representative.

Feel free to discuss any questions with your doctor and/or hospital staff. 

As a patient at BID Needham, you have the right to:

  1. Receive medical care that meets the highest standards of BID Needham, regardless of your race, religion, national origin, any disability or handicap, gender, sexual orientation, military service or the source of payment for your care.
  2. Receive care that is considerate of your culture and respectful of your personal beliefs and preferences.
  3. Be involved in your plan of care including to take part in decisions relating to your health care requests and or refusals for treatment and services.
  4. Privacy during medical treatment or any other rendering of care and treatment within the hospital’s capacity.
  5. Have all reasonable requests responded to promptly and adequately within the capacity of BID Needham.
  6. Upon request, to obtain from BID Needham the name and specialty, if any, of the physician or other person responsible for your care or the coordination of that care.
  7. Make an informed decision regarding the care you will receive including the right for you or your representative to receive information prior to treatment including information about your health status, risks, benefits, potential complications and alternatives, before consenting to or refusing treatment and to be informed in advance before furnishing or discontinuation of care, whenever possible.
  8. Have a family member or representative of your choice and your own physician promptly notified of your admission to the hospital.
  9. Be informed at your initial evaluation that pain relief is an important part of your care, that your caregivers will respond quickly to reports of pain, work with you to establish goals for pain prevention and relief, as well as develop and implement a plan to achieve those goals.
  10. Upon request, to obtain an explanation as to the relationship, if any, of BID Needham or your physician to any other health care facility or educational institution insofar as said relationship relates to your care or treatment.
  11. Upon request, to obtain a copy of any hospital rules or regulations which apply to your conduct as a patient.
  12. Upon request, to receive a copy of the bill or other statement of charges submitted to any third-party by BID Needham for your care.
  13. Inquire and receive information about the possibility of financial aid and public assistance. For inquiries related to financial aid and public assistance, please contact the Financial Assistance office at 781-453-3070.
  14. Confidentiality of all records and communications to the extent provided by law.
  15. Upon request, to access the information contained in your medical records and to receive a copy thereof within a reasonable time frame as quickly as the hospital record keeping system permits, in accordance with Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 111, Section 70E.
  16. Refuse to be examined, observed or treated by students or any other BID Needham staff without jeopardizing access to psychiatric, psychological or other medical care and attention.
  17. Refuse to serve as a research subject and to refuse any care or examination when the primary purpose is educational or informational rather than therapeutic.
  18. Prompt lifesaving treatment in an emergency without discriminating on account of economic status or source of payment and without delaying treatment for purposes of prior discussion of the source of payment unless such delay can be imposed without material risk to health.
  19. Participate in consideration of ethical questions that arise during care including conflict resolution, withholding resuscitative services, and forgoing or withdrawal of life sustaining treatments. 
  20. Access protective services.
  21. If you are a female rape victim of childbearing age, to receive medically and factually accurate 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.
  22. Complete information from your physician on all alternative treatments that are medically viable if you are suffering from any form of breast cancer.
  23. Receive information tailored to your age, language and ability to understand. If you are a patient with limited English proficiency, BID Needham will provide access to meaningful communication via a qualified interpreter service provided either in person, or via telephone. If you are a patient who is deaf or hard of hearing, BID Needham will request a certified interpreter from the Massachusetts Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.
  24. Receive information about how you can get assistance with concerns and complaints about the quality of care or service you receive, and to initiate a formal grievance process with the hospital or other state or regulatory agencies.
  25. Receive care in a safe setting within the hospital.
  26. Formulate advance directives and to have hospital staff and practitioners who provide care in the hospital comply with these directives.

Any person whose rights under this section are violated may bring, in addition to any other action allowed by law or regulation, a civil action under Sections 60B to 60E, inclusive, of Chapter 231.

Your Right to be Heard

If a problem occurs that interferes with your rights as a patient or with the quality of your care, we encourage you to contact our hospital president and CEO:

John Fogarty
President and CEO
Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital–Needham
148 Chestnut Street
Needham, MA 02492
Phone: 781-453-3002

You also have the right to discuss your complaint with these agencies:

Complaint Intake Unit 
Massachusetts Department of Public Health
Division of Healthcare Quality
99 Chauncy Street
Boston, MA 02111
Phone: 1-800-462-5540 or 617-753-8150
Fax: 617-753-8165

MassPRO (for Medicare recipients)
245 Winter Street
Waltham, MA 02451
Phone: 800-252-5533

Office of Quality Monitoring
The Joint Commission
One Renaissance Boulevard
Oakbrook, IL 60181
Phone: 800-994-6610
Fax: 630-792-5636
Email Patient Safety Report

Patient Care Assessment Unit
Board of Registration in Medicine
200 Harvard Mill Square, Suite 330
Wakefield, MA 01880
Phone: 781-876-8200

Your Patient Responsibilities

As a patient at BID Needham, you are expected to and have the responsibility to:

  1. Provide accurate and complete information to facilitate your care, treatment and services that includes your medical history, hospitalization and current health concerns. Report any unexpected changes in your health to your care providers. 
  2. Ask questions or acknowledge when you do not understand the treatment course or care decisions.
  3. Follow treatment plans recommended by physicians and the health professionals working under the attending physician’s direction. Let providers know immediately if you do not understand your plan of care or health instructions you are given.
  4. Participate and collaborate in your treatment and in planning for post-hospital care.
  5. Be part of the pain management team. If you are receiving pain medications, ask your medical team about pain management options. Use pain medications as prescribed and provide feedback if certain methods are not working well for you.
  6. Be considerate and respectful of other patients and hospital personnel. Do what you can to help control noise and ensure that your visitors are considerate as well. Be respectful of hospital property.
  7. Follow instructions, policies, rules and regulations in place to support quality care for all patients and a safe environment for all individuals in the hospital.
  8. Support mutual consideration and respect by following hospital rules and regulations, including those that prohibit offensive, threatening and/or abusive language or behavior, or the use of tobacco, alcohol, or illicit drugs or substances by maintaining civil language and conduct with staff and licensed independent practitioners. Help ensure that your visitors are aware of and follow these rules.
  9. Provide the hospital with a copy of any advance directive or health care proxy that you have prepared.

Provide accurate and complete financial information, and work with the hospital to ensure that financial obligations related to your care are met. Notify the hospital promptly if there is a hardship, so that we may assist you as needed.

Your Rights and Decisions About Your Care

Learn how your patient rights impact your care decisions.
What Are My Rights as a Patient at BID Needham?

Under Massachusetts law, you have the right as a patient to:

  • Make decisions about your medical care.
  • Accept or refuse medical or surgical treatments.
  • Appoint a health care agent by completing a health care proxy form.

At BID Needham, we respect your right to self-determination to the fullest extent permitted by law. Be sure to ask your doctor any questions you have about your care.

What Are My Rights to Accept Care?

As an adult patient in Massachusetts, you have the right to accept medical or surgical treatment. You also have the right to choose another person (who may or may not be a family member) to act as your agent or proxy for making medical decisions if you become unable to understand the nature and consequences of health care decisions. This includes the benefits and risks of and alternatives to any proposed health care, and to reach an informed decision for yourself.

Your agent will have legal authority to make decisions for you with your doctor. If you do not choose an agent, your family may be asked to make decisions based upon what they believe you would want.

If you have no family, or if there is a disagreement about what treatment you would want, a court may be asked to appoint a guardian to make decisions on your behalf. Any person, whether a health care agent or other representative deciding on your behalf, must base their decisions upon what they believe you would want.

How Do I Exercise My Right to Refuse Treatment?

Your right to refuse treatment (whether exercised by you or your agent, family or court-appointed guardian) includes the right to refuse life-sustaining treatments and procedures.

We perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) on patients who experience a sudden cardiac or pulmonary arrest unless a do not resuscitate (DNR) order is given.

A DNR is an order written by a physician. It specifies that no CPR efforts should be made in the case of sudden, unexpected cardiac or respiratory arrest. Before writing a DNR order, your doctor talks with you, your agent or family to discuss your wishes, condition and prognosis.

What Is the Comfort Care Protocol?

For people living in the community (including nursing facilities) who choose Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) status, the Comfort Care/DNR protocol was developed by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, Office of Emergency Medical Services.

The existence of the Comfort Care/DNR form in the home (or nursing facility) enables EMT's and first responders to honor your request for no resuscitation and to give you palliative care conforming to Comfort Care protocol. The Comfort Care/DNR form must be signed by the patient, health care proxy or guardian and an attending physician, authorized nurse practitioner or authorized physician assistant.

When a patient who has a Comfort Care/DNR form in place and is admitted to the hospital, the physician will verify with the patient (or health care proxy) that they still request DNR status and if so, will write the DNR order in the patient's medical record.

What Is MOLST?

The Massachusetts Medical Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment (MOLST) is another form from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. Patients and their health care providers can use MOLST to document the results of discussions they have regarding appropriate life-sustaining treatment. If the MOLST form is current and valid, it will be honored.

What Are My Rights to Get Information About Proposed Treatments?

You (or your agent) have the right to get information you need to make informed decisions about a procedure or treatment.

This information should generally include:

  • A description of the recommended treatment and its risks and benefits.
  • A description of the risks and benefits of alternative treatments or procedures (if there are any), including the likely result of having no treatment at all.
  • Any other information you want, which the doctor can provide.

Please remember that doctors cannot guarantee the results of a medical treatment. You have the right to ask questions about your condition and any proposed treatments or procedures.

What Are My Rights to Use an Advance Directive?

There may come a time when you are unable to communicate your wishes about medical treatment. An advance directive provides written instructions about your care wishes when you are unable to make health care decisions on your own.

Types of advance directives include:

  • Durable power of attorney
  • Health care proxy
  • Living will
  • Medical orders for life sustaining treatment (MOLST)

These documents tell health care providers who you choose as your health care agent.

Your agent can make decisions for you only if your doctor finds you unable to make or communicate your health care decisions (for example, if you are in a coma). If you become incapacitated, your health care agent has the legal authority to make all health care decisions. These include decisions about life-sustaining treatment, unless you place limitations on your agent's authority in the health care proxy form.

What Is a Health Care Proxy?

A health care proxy follows your wishes if you become unable to make your own health care decisions.

You are not required to complete a health care proxy form to receive medical care. You have the right to receive the same type and quality of care whether or not you complete a proxy form.

When you are admitted to the hospital, we will ask if you have completed a health care proxy form. If you have completed a proxy, give a copy to your doctor, nurse or social worker to put in your medical record.

Notify your health care agent when you are admitted to the hospital or if you know you are going to be in the hospital.

If you haven’t completed a health care proxy form, we will provide one. We also give you the information you need to complete the form.

Health care proxy forms and more information are available in the case management department, and on the nursing units.

If you need help completing the proxy form, call case management at 781-453-5414. A social worker can assist you.

What Is a Living Will?

If you don’t have a health care proxy, you can still write down specific instructions. Include how you wish to be treated if you become terminally ill or unable to make decisions.

This is sometimes called a living will. These instructions help other people know your wishes about future medical treatments. You can also complete the medical orders for life sustaining treatment (MOLST) form documenting your wishes for medical treatment.

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