German Patients' Rights Act

On 26th February 2013 the German Patients’ Rights Act entered into force. The new law improves the protection of patients’ rights and makes it much easier to understand. The rules create the conditions for the legal relations between doctors and patients first time. In this way, the rights of patients are more transparent.

In the past Germany did not have any specific legislation concerning patients’ rights. Their rights, however, were scattered across various laws. The previously existing laws had been interpreted by different courts in more detail. Also, special rules have been developed by the jurisdiction of the German Supreme Court. It was therefore very difficult to get an overview of the rights and entitlements of patients.
Through the Patients’ Rights Act 2013, the scattered patient rights have been bundled. In addition, the position of the patient has been strengthened in the health system.

The new provisions in the Patients’ Rights Act:
The doctor-patient relationship is consolidated now in a treatment contract. This means that all rights and obligations related to medical treatment are anchored and codified in a new section of the German Civil Code (§§ 630 a bis h BGB). These rules include the duty to provide all kinds of clarification and the right of access to patient records. It enables patients under the German Civil Law System much better to enforce their claims. Medical practitioners and hospitals are required to document all failures that occur or nearly occur during treatment. In cases of treatment failure the health insurance companies are obliged to support their insured. The medical liability and the instruments to the burden of proof (former developed by the courts) have been inserted to the German Civil Code. The insertion of the rules is an act to reach more legal certainty in this area of law.

 Ivo Vogel