Patients' rights: new law passed

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New law on the protection of patient rights passed

After years of struggling for details, the Patient Rights Act was passed on Wednesday. Among other things, the law should enable patients to better enforce their rights in the event of treatment errors. While the federal government highlights the improvements made by the new law, the patient protection organizations and critics from the opposition do not go far enough.

The Federal Cabinet launched the draft of the Patient Rights Act today. To come into force early next year. Both the Federal Minister of Justice and the Federal Minister of Health emphasized the advantages of the new law in relation to the detection of treatment errors. However, a general reversal of the burden of proof, as requested by the patient protection organizations, is not planned, so that in case of doubt, the patient must first justify the suspicion of a gross treatment error.

Controversy over the burden of proof in the case of treatment errors The lack of a reversal of the burden of proof in the new patient rights law was not only the cause of clear criticism for the politicians of the opposition. Here the patients would be left in the rain and opportunities for fundamental changes would be wasted, according to the opposition parties. The executive board of the patient protection organization Deutsche Hospiz Stiftung, Eugen Brysch, was also dissatisfied with the approved cabinet design and said: "We need a rigorous reversal of the burden of proof, which is not only limited to gross treatment errors." Representatives of the medical associations were, however, given the moderate regulations relieved of the burden of proof in case of possible treatment errors. For them, the general reversal of the burden of proof would have meant a considerable bureaucratic additional effort, since the treatment steps should have been documented much more precisely than before. According to reports of the "Ärzte Zeitung", the delegates of the 115th German Medical Day made a joint statement, stating that "the focus is on the treatment of the patient and not the documentation of all measures taken before, during and after the treatment" got to. Additional bureaucracy "ties up valuable time that should primarily be used for treatment", according to the position of the doctors.

Health insurance companies have to support patients with expert reports The Federal Minister of Health Daniel Bahr (FDP) defended the restricted reversal of the burden of proof in the current cabinet proposal, pointing out that this "ultimately leads to a risk avoidance culture", "but doctors should continue to try to do everything possible for their patients to help. ”According to the Minister, the quality of treatment would have suffered from even more extensive legal regulations. The relationship between doctor and patient should not be burdened by the legal requirements, said Bahr. The Federal Minister of Justice Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger (FDP), however, emphasized the advantages of the current draft law and stated that this was the first federal government to create a clear "legal basis here."

For more than ten years, the parties in the Bundestag have been discussing ways to strengthen patient rights without results. Now, with the current draft, the health insurance companies are at least obliged to support patients with suspected treatment errors through medical reports. In addition, the previous case law is included in the new patient rights law, so that the burden of proof "in the future for gross treatment errors will lie with the doctor", explained Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, in her view, one of the points of the new law that she considers essential is obliged to provide evidence of their correct procedure.

Patient education required In addition to the regulations for dealing with treatment errors, the Patient Rights Act also provides some basic requirements for the protection of patients. For example, from next year onwards doctors will be required to provide their patients with comprehensive information about the upcoming treatment, and the possible treatment risks must also be explained in detail. (fp)

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