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The Admission Process

What does the hospital need to find out before I am admitted?

* Your name, address, and next of kin.

* Whether you may consent to your own care or whether the hospital must contact your parent or guardian. If you have appointed someone else to be your agent, you should give the hospital a copy of the power of attorney.

* How you will pay for the hospitalization. The hospital will want evidence of insurance or a cash deposit. Even if you have insurance, the hospital may demand a cash deposit.

What forms will I be asked to fill out?

* Consent forms. The hospital will ask you to sign a general consent form for hospital treatment. If this form does not specify your treatment in detail, it gives them permission to do only routine hospital care. You or your agent are the only people who may sign this form. The hospital has no legal right to demand that your spouse sign the consent form, but they may deny your admission in nonemergency situations. If your spouse attempts to "veto" your treatment by refusing to sign the form, such a veto is legally ineffective, and the hospital should not honor it.

* Records release forms. These forms allow the hospital to give your records to your insurance company. You may limit this release to authorize release only of the itemized bill. You should write this on the form and send an accompanying letter to the hospital's medical records department. If you are paying for the hospitalization yourself, you may refuse to sign the form.

* Insurance assignment forms. These forms give the hospital the right to collect payment from your insurance company. If you are paying for the hospitalization yourself, you should not sign the form.

What if I do not agree with something on the admissions forms? You should mark out or change any parts of a form that you feel are inappropriate. If the nurse refuses to let you do this, you should ask to see the hospital administrator. Any changes or additions should be in ink.

What if the form is not completely filled out? You should not sign any forms that are not completely filled out.

What are my rights in the hospital? You have certain basic rights in the hospital. These rights, however, may be limited to qualified when there is a valid medical reason to do so.

* You have a right to know what medications and treatments you are given.

* You have the right to refuse any treatment (although the courts may intervene to order life-saving treatment.

* You have the right to speak with anyone you want, including friends, relatives, physicians, or an attorney.

* You have a right to special diets that are prescribed by your religion, except when your doctor has determined that there are compelling medical reasons to change such diets. This should be discussed with your physician if a question arises.

To whom do I complain if I feel that I am not being properly treated? If you are concerned about anything involving your medical treatment, you should first discuss this with your physician. If you have a problem with the nursing care, diet, room, and so on, you should speak to hospital administrator. It helps if you make a written record of your complaint.

What if there is no administrator on duty? If the problem is urgent, ask for the administrator's home phone number.

What if the nurses refuse to let me speak to the administrator? Ask for the nursing supervisor and tell the supervisor that you want an "incident report" filed. Make a written complaint to be included in this report.

What legal preparations should I make before entering the hospital?

* You should authorize someone, usually your spouse if you are married, consent to medical care for you.

* If you do not want to be maintained as a "human vegetable" if something goes wrong, you should sign a "living will." A living will is a document that authorizes the physicians to let you die in peace when there is little hope for your recovery. You may want to consult an attorney about the details of this document.

* If you are a single parent or guardian, you should authorize, in writing, someone to consent to medical care for your child or ward while you are hospitalized.

* You should have a regular will prepared and signed. You should consult with an attorney if you are not sure whether your will is in order.

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