APH 2008, 66, 137-157:

The Belgian Law on Patient Rights in the practice of medical specialists

Schoonacker M, Louckx F, Vanroelen C.

Keywords: law on patient rights, patient-centred care, specialists

Objective

This explorative study investigates how well medical specialists in Flanders (Belgium) are acquainted with the Law on Patient Rights, how they comply with the regulations, their attitudes towards this law, and the problems they experience with it.

Methods

Quantitative methodology using a questionnaire sent by mail to 800 medical specialists. 210 questionnaires were returned, of which 171 could be used for analysis in our study.

Results

The physicians’ knowledge of the Law on Patient Rights depended to a large extent on which aspect was being considered. The necessary consent for most medical actions was relatively well known, but legal regulations concerning the confidant were surprisingly less well known. Furthermore, specialists often failed to comply with a number of legal regulations. They did not often inform patients about the financial costs of a treatment and did not comply sufficiently with regulations concerning the implementation of the therapeutical exception or recording the name of the confidant. In addition, they experienced communication problems with patients, particularly specific target groups, such as foreign patients. In general, specialists recognised both negative and positive consequences of this law.

Conclusions

Because of the above-mentioned concerns with regard to the knowledge of, compliance with and attitudes to the Law on Patient Rights, informing physicians of and sensitising them to patient rights are very important issues. In addition, further efforts are required with regard to education through patient-centred communication.