By Johnbosco Agbakwuru
ABUJA—VICE President, Yemi Osinbajo has said respect for human dignity is a universal principle.
Speaking at the launch of Patients Bill of Rights in Abuja, the Vice President said, “Respect for human dignity is a universal principle. People never forget how they are treated, especially when they are at their most vulnerable – and there are not many scenarios of vulnerability that are as compelling as the ones that put a person in search of healing.
It is, I think; fair to say that one can tell a great deal about how a country values its citizens from the attitudes prevalent in its healthcare systems and institutions. While of course the ultimate goal is to ensure that the patient stays alive and in good health, it is just as important that the journey to that realization of the final goal is underpinned by the full preservation of human dignity.
“Indeed, the foundational ethos of the medical profession, embodied by the service charter that is the Hippocratic Oath, and its recent iteration of the Declaration of Geneva, fully recognizes the pre-eminence of the comfort and dignity of the patient. I would go on to argue that this deference to the supremacy of human dignity is the responsibility not only of medical personnel, but everyone in the healthcare value chain: government, regulators, insurers, administrators, family and/or primary caregivers, and even the final consumer.
“The Patients’ Bill of Rights is a remarkable effort at consensus and common purpose, in the face of the many challenges of our healthcare system in Nigeria. It cuts out the noise and distractions, and focuses on what is truly most important: putting people first. It serves as a code of accountability, constantly reminding us of the primary purpose of the healthcare system, and of the obligations of every player and stakeholder in that system. It helps clarify consumers’ expectations of providers and the providers’ responsibilities to consumers.
“In terms of policy and funding, we, as a government, are acutely aware of the challenges of Nigeria’s health sector. And that is why we are single-mindedly pursuing the attainment of Universal Health Coverage for all Nigerians. For the first time ever, our 2018 budget allocates 1% of the Consolidated Revenue Fund towards the funding of key health initiatives, in compliance with the National Health Act.”
“Our aim must be to develop a standard worthy of emulation, by ensuring strict compliance with and the enforcement of the Patients’ Bill of Rights. We must hold ourselves – professionals and patients – accountable to the rights that this document enunciates, and when we see others who should, but do not, we must insist that they do.
“For what this Bill embodies is potential. It is only by enforcing, and by ensuring sanctions in the face of failures of enforcement, that we can ensure that the potential is fully realized. Without realizing that potential, the Bill is reduced to a mere set of words worth no more than the paper on which it has been expressed. This is not the legacy that we seek
Although the concept is not entirely new,the Patients’ Bill of Rights is an aggregation of rights that exits in other instruments, including the Nigerian Constitution, Consumer Protection Act, Child Rights Act, Freedom of Information Act, National Health Act, the Hippocratic Oath among others.
The Consumer Protection Council (CPC), Federal Ministry of Health and other stakeholders were instrumental to its launch.
Director General of the CPC, Babatunde Irukera expressed optimism that the Bill of Rights would help eliminate quacks in the country’s health care sector as it will serve as a weapon in the hand of patients to demand better healthcare services.
He said, “Protecting rights in the healthcare sector is of particular importance and is a defining feature of how society should, and must operate.”
The CPC boss also explained that the Council took interest in protecting consumers in the health care sector considering that life expectancy depends on the quality of health care delivery in the country.