Professional legislation

What French law says about the rights of patients

 Knowing and understanding the rules and regulations of the dental profession is of course a fundamental prerequisite to the practice of dentistry. The French Dental Association endeavours to keep dentists well informed on the laws that govern their profession, and particularly on one that came into force in 2002, bringing with it important changes.

The law on the rights of patients and the quality of the health system voted on 4 March 2002 provides clear indications on the relationship between patients and health care professionals, within a "democratic" health system where the right of the individual to protection, dignity, privacy and non-discrimination is the fundamental rule. This means among other things that:
- each and every person has a right to health care and prevention.
- health care professionals are bound to a strict code of medical confidentiality, including when dealing with minors, who are now allowed medical secrecy vis-à-vis their parents.
- health care professionals may be held liable for medical malpractice.

Informed consent and access to medical files

The new terms introduced in 2002 regarding medical liability have led to the obligation for health care professionals to obtain the informed consent of their patients. In other terms, the patient must be fully aware of the risks, limits and constraints related to the treatment, i.e. must be informed about his or her current state of health, about the examinations necessary to properly diagnose the disease, the treatment plan suggested and the options available, the objectives and expected positive outcome of the treatment, its estimated cost, and the possible side-effects and frequent or serious risks usually involved. To this effect, patients now have access to their medical files.