Over the years, the European Institutions underlined the importance of the European Charter of Patients’ Rights citing it in their official documents. For instance, two Resolutions from the European Parliament have called for its adoption. The European Economic Social Committee approved an Opinion on Patients’ rights citing ACN and the Charter and called the European Commission's commitment to guarantee to all European citizens effective access to health services on the basis of the solidarity principle. The EU Directive 2011/24/EU on the application of patients’ rights in cross-border healthcare officially recognized the “right to free choice” and the “right to information” included in the European Charter of Patients' Rights. Also at the national level, thanks to the work of the constituency of ACN, the Charter has received endorsement as, for examples, the Maltese government, which has widely recognized the rights included in the EU Charter and adopted them through the HEALTH ACT 2013 (Part VIII, Patients’ Rights and Safety) or the Italian Ministry of Health that has officially recognized the right to avoid unnecessary suffering and pain stated in the Charter, implementing the law no. 38 (15 March 2010) “Dispositions to protect access to palliative care and pain therapy”. Here all the documents.
AT EUROPEAN LEVEL
Council Conclusions on Common values and principles in European Union Health Systems
This statement builds on discussions that have taken place in the Council and with the Commission as part of the Open Method of Coordination, and the High-Level Process of Reflection on Patient Mobility and healthcare development in the EU. It also takes into account the legal instruments at European or international level which have an impact in the field of health (22 June 2006). This is a statement about the common values and principles that underpin Europe's health systems, taking into consideration the European Charter of Patients’ Rights. This statement sets out the common values and principles that are shared across the European Union about how health systems respond to the needs of the populations and patients that they serve. It also explains that the practical ways in which these values and principles become a reality in the health systems of the EU vary significantly between Member States, and will continue to do so. In particular, decisions about the basket of healthcare to which citizens are entitled and the mechanisms used to finance and deliver that healthcare, such as the extent to which it is appropriate to rely on market mechanisms and competitive pressures to manage health systems must be taken in the national context.
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European Parliament resolution of 15 March 2007 on Community action on the provision of cross-border healthcare
The resolution states that the European Parliament “considers that there is a need to incorporate a common charter of patients' rights in that framework in order to ensure that such rights are exercised in practice across borders and in the home country”.
European Parliament resolution of 23 May 2007 on Impact and consequences of the exclusion of Health Services from the Directive on Services in the Internal Market
The European Parliament adopted a resolution based on the own-initiative report by Bernadette Vergnaud on the impact and consequences of the exclusion of health services from the Directive on services in the internal market. The Parliament considered that it was important to give patients the right to choose health care in another Member State when this allows them to receive appropriate treatment. Patients need to be informed fully of both the terms and prior conditions for access to and the implications of that choice. According to case law of the Court of Justice, prior authorisation for hospital care should be easily obtainable, dealt with immediately and evaluated on the basis of objective criteria. Refusal of authorisation should be justified on the basis of objective criteria which must be verified in a transparent way. Parliament called for the adoption of a European Charter of Patients' Rights on the basis of existing charters in the Member States and of work carried out by non-governmental organisations.
Opinion of the European Economic and Social Committee on ‘Patients' rights’
On 14 July 2005 the European Economic and Social Committee decided to draw up an opinion on patients' rights. At its 438th plenary session, the European Economic and Social Committee adopted this opinion on patients’ rights (Brussels, 26 September 2007).
For many years now, European countries and the European Community have addressed the question of the rights of health service users, establishing charters or a comprehensive body of legislation enabling the affirmation of such rights. These obviously depend on the quality of the health system and the way healthcare is organized. However, respect for such rights is also dependent on the behavior and cooperation of health professionals and patients themselves. The rights of the European Charter of Patients' Rights are important in European citizens' dealings with health systems in their respective countries. A study carried out by citizens' organizations in 14 EU countries shows that the level of protection of these rights varies greatly from country to country. This calls into question the European Commission's commitment to guarantee all European citizens effective access to health services on the basis of the solidarity principle.
Directive 2011/24/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council on the Application of Patients’ Rights in Cross-Border Healthcare
This Directive was done by the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union (Strasbourg, 9 March 2011).
The EU Directive 2011/24/EU on the application of patients’ rights in cross-border healthcare officially recognized the “right to free choice” and the “right to information” included in the European Charter of Patients' Rights. Furthermore, the Article 6 § 1 of the Directive establishes that “Member States shall ensure that the national contact points consult also with patient associations”, recognizing and enhancing also the ultimate principle of the European Charter of Patients' Rights, that is the “right to participate in policymaking in the health field”. This Directive aims to establish rules for facilitating access to safe and high-quality cross-border healthcare in the Union and to ensure patient mobility in accordance with the principles established by the Court of Justice and to promote cooperation on healthcare between Member States. It should apply to individual patients who decide to seek healthcare in a Member State other than the Member State of affiliation. As confirmed by the Court of Justice, neither its special nature nor the way in which it is organized removes healthcare from the ambit of the fundamental principle of the freedom to provide services. The Court of Justice has laid down that public health protection is among the overriding reasons of general interest that can justify restrictions to the freedom of movement envisaged in the Treaties.
Report on safer healthcare in Europe: improving patient safety and fighting antimicrobial resistance (2014/2207(INI))", approved by the European Parliament on 19 May 2015
It states thath “The European Parliament recognizes the value of citizens’ initiatives, such as the European Charter of Patients’ Rights based on the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, and the European Patients’ Rights Day, which has been organised every year on 18 April since 2007; invites the Commission and the Member States to support the European Patients’ Rights Day at local, national and EU level”.
Question Time asked to Elisabeth Morin-Chartier (EPP) by Paolo Giordano on the European Charter of Patients’ Rights
This question time on the European Charter of Patients’ Rights was conducted between Elisabeth Morin-Chartier, former member of the European Parliament and French politician of the European People's Party (EPP) (2015).
The question time claims that it is more essential than ever to reiterate the importance of patients' rights, still unknown to European citizens. The rights to information, free and informed consent and dignity must be more widespread. This is why the European institutions must be mobilized more actively on this issue. The Commission considers it of utmost importance to promote patients’ rights in the EU. In this regard, Directive 2011/24/EU on the application of patients' rights relating to cross-border healthcare represents an important legislative instrument. The Directive clarified the rights of people seeking assistance in another Member State and enshrined, for the first time, a number of fundamental rights for patients in EU law. Furthermore, the Commission commissioned a study to identify patients' rights across the EU in order to provide an overview of the legislation, structures, procedures and mechanisms that guarantee patients' rights in the Member States.
AT NATIONAL LEVEL
Provisions to Ensure Access to Palliative Care and Pain Therapy
Law No. 38 regarding access to palliative care and pain therapy, promoted by the Italian Government, was approved on March 15, 2010.
This law protects the citizen's right to access palliative care and pain therapy. In particular, access to palliative care and pain therapy by the patient is protected and guaranteed, in order to ensure respect for the dignity and autonomy of the human person, the need for health, equity in access to care, the quality of care and its appropriateness with regard to specific needs. In addition, the healthcare facilities that provide palliative care and pain therapy ensure an individual care program for the patient and his family, in compliance with the following fundamental principles: protection of the dignity and autonomy of the patient, without any discrimination; protection and promotion of the quality of life until its end; adequate health and social-assistance support for the patient and the family.
Health Act 2013
The Maltese government has widely recognized the rights included in the EU Charter and adopted them through the Health Act in Part VIII, which is that of Patients’ Rights and Safety (2013).
This Act intends to establish and ensure a health system based on the principles of accessibility, quality and sustainability by regulating the entitlement to, and the quality of, healthcare services in Malta, consolidating and reforming the Government structures and entities responsible for health and by providing for the rights of patients. It was enacted by the President, by and with the advice and consent of the House of Representatives. Reference to the EU Charter of Patients’ Rights is made in Part VIII of the Health Act, which is that concerning Patients’ Rights and Safety.
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