Neda Milevska-Kostova

2005-06 International Policy Fellow
Public Health and the Roma working group

Due to a lack of knowledge and expertise in medical law and a paternalistic concept of medicine, the rights of patients, consumers, family members and ordinary people are at risk. Inequalities in healthcare have increased significantly in the last decade in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe, not only between but within the countries of the region.

This paper argues that it is necessary to examine existing legislation in these countries, where the process of economic and political transition has had an affect on the healthcare system and treatment of patients. The enforcement of patients' rights legislation and related healthcare acts produce no results unless the appropriate system for consistent implementation is in place. Public awareness-raising campaigns are vital as is the restructuring of the existing healthcare acts and the introduction of new mechanisms for implementing patients' rights. These rights include not only the right to healthcare but the right to refuse treatment, the right to complain and the right to participate in decision making. Additional problems occur within the Roma populations of Central and Eastern Europe, where lack of education and poor housing conditions are reflected in the poor health of the Roma.