Cancer Patients' Bill of Rights

The Cancer Information Network endorses the following version of Cancer Patients' Bill of Rights:

All private, health insurers and all managed care plans shall cover in full all cancer screening and early detection protocols pursuant to the best evidence of appropriate screening protocols.

Every person diagnosed with a suspicious tissue growth (neoplasia) which has a reasonable, medical probability of being malignant shall have a right to immediate referral to a specialist, board-certified in cancer diagnosis and treatment.

Every patient with a confirmed diagnosis of cancer shall have a right to treatment by a multi-disciplinary team of oncology specialists, including but not limited to, medical oncologists, surgical oncologists, radiology oncologists, plastic surgeons, rehabilitation specialists and counseling.

Every cancer patient, whether in treatment or after treatment, shall have the right to use a medical specialist as his/her primary care physician with full insurance coverage for same and without penalty within a managed care plan.

Every competent, adult cancer patient shall participate in the formation of his/her treatment and rehabilitation plan and his/her pain management protocol.

 

Medical Centers' Responsibilities

Every hospital or research center rendering care to cancer patients shall respect such patient's advance directives for discontinuation of care. If such hospital or research center for policy or religious reasons cannot respect advance directives, the patient or the patient's designated representative shall be so informed as soon as possible.

Medical treatment facilities shall make every effort to acquaint each cancer patient with a re–covering cancer patient who shall serve as the inpatient's personal counselor and advocate.

Cancer diagnostic testing and cancer treatment side effects shall be minimized to the extent prac–tical under current standards of treatment.

Cancer patients have the right to continuity of care, including post-discharge aftercare.

Cancer patients shall receive from the primary, cancer treatment provider continuous and lifelong monitoring of health and emotional well-being with particular emphasis on vigilance for cancer recurrence and for long-term aftereffects of cancer treatment.

Cancer patients have the right to lifelong, continuing education on all aspects of cancer prevention, diagnost–ic tests, and treatment protocols.

 

Right to Participate in Alternative Treatments

Cancer patients have a right to participate in unapproved alternative or complimentary cancer treatments and to have their health-care plan or health insurance provider pay for such treatments with certain noted restrictions. A competent, adult cancer patient may participate in alternative, unapproved treatments if he/she has received from his/her primary health-care provider a written statement of such treatment's known or probable risks and a written statement disclosing any readily available, known failures of such treatment. A parent or legal guardian of a minor or incompetent adult patient shall have the right to petition a Probate Court or Family Court of competent jurisdiction to allow access to alternative or complimentary treatments. Payment from any source for such treatment shall be escrowed in a trust account and shall not be released to the provider of the unapproved treatment until the patient's primary healthcare provider certifies to the trustee that the alternative treatment has been a "cancer treatment benefit" to the patient. The results of all unapproved alternative or complimentary cancer treatments must be reported to the Cancer Therapy Evaluation Program of the National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health. There shall be created, to standardize a working definition of "cancer treatment benefit," a national Joint Commission for Alternative and Complimentary Cancer Treatment which shall include at least the American Joint Committee on Cancer, the Oncology Nursing Society, the American College of Surgeons Oncology Group, the Children's Oncology Group and the American College of Radiology Imaging Network.

Cancer patients shall participate in their own pain management and shall have the right to have their pain complaints believed, the right to aggressive pain management, and the right to know what limitations on pain management are in the policy of the primary healthcare provider. Aggressive pain management with all available medication, including opiates, shall not first require invasive procedures for pain management such as, but not limited to, surgery, nerve or tissue destruction or the implantation of electronic anti-pain devices. The potential for drug addiction shall be evaluated, fully explained to the patient, but shall not be the sole criterion for not using available medications nor for discontinuing pain relief by medication.

 

Pain Management Protocol

At the end of life, every competent adult or his/her legal representative shall have the right to request all available, pain management protocols, including opiates which might hasten death. No lawfully licensed physician shall be sanctioned for prescribing aggressive pain management even if death by sedation is a possible contraindication. No physician shall participate directly in physician-assisted suicide which shall be defined as deliberate administration of pain medication at a deliberately lethal dose with the intent of hastening a patient's death.

Cancer survivors have a right to gainful employment commensurate with their talents and abilities, without regard to their history of cancer diagnosis.

Cancer survivors have a right to be included in employer's group health-care plans without prejudice against preexisting cancer diagnosis.

Cancer survivors have a right to private health insurance at reasonable cost without prejudice against pre-existing cancer diagnosis if such patients have been in remission for at least two years.