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Committee Will Consider Measure to Require Advice of Patient Bill of Rights

ANNAPOLIS — A Senate committee will consider a bill that would expand patients’ rights and require that medical care providers notify patients about them.

Sen. Ron Young (D-District 3) and Delegate Karen Lewis Young (D-District 3A) submitted cross-filed bills Senate Bill 530 and House Bill 562 that would build on current law by specifying that a hospital administrator must provide each patient with a written copy of the hospital’s patient’s bill of rights.

Currently in Maryland, administrators bear the responsibility of making the rights available, but the proposed change says that they must provide a written copy of rights to each patient, and make accommodations for those who need an alternate format.

Young said he hoped that the proposed legislation would clarify what treatment patients should already expect under the law.

“If I don’t like something, I speak up. But some people don’t do that and don’t know to ask,” he said.

The bills also require patient care staff to be trained annually on patients’ rights.

“It encourages patients to take an active role in getting healthy and staying healthy,” Consumer Health First director Kathy Ruben said.

Jaron Gilchrist, a Prince George’s County man, spoke in support of the Senate bill Thursday before the Finance Committee.

He told the lawmakers about an upsetting experience his mother had when his stepfather had a stroke and underwent brain surgery. He said that the hospital did not provide a sign language interpreter for his mother, who is deaf. She spent five days at the hospital without an interpreter, according to Gilchrist.

Irnande Altema, of the Mental Health Association of Maryland, testified that requiring rights be handed out could be particularly beneficial to people with mental health disorders who may have trouble understanding that they have a right to have family with them in the hospital.

Young said that the proposed legislation would establish core rights across Maryland, but some institutions could choose to add on to the list.

Jennifer Witten, of the Maryland Hospital Association, said her group supported the bill but wanted to see an amendment that would align the rights with those established by the Office of Health Care Quality. The bill based its definition of core rights on those used at Johns Hopkins Hospital.

Similar bills were considered by committees in 2016 and 2017, but they were withdrawn after getting unfavorable reports.

Follow Kelsi Loos on Twitter: @KelsiLoos.

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