The diagnosis of cancer can change your whole life in one fell swoop. But what am I entitled to when I am sick? We explain what rights people have – and how they can enforce them.
If you get cancer, you want to do everything you can to get well again. But not only the question of the right treatment method is important for the patient, but also the question of what rights they actually have during their illness. For example, who pays for the cost of treatment or rehabilitation? And who can I contact for advice?
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She masters the greatest challenge in her life with a lot of strength and the support of her husband and children: the fight against cancer.
Where can I find out about my rights?
There are special social services that are located directly at the clinics and on the one hand provide information about claims during cancer and on the other hand support the application process. There are also general cancer counseling centers that can answer legal questions.
You have these rights as a cancer patient
Many patients do not even know that they have a significant say in how they are treated.
Cancer patients should have the following rights:
Right to a second professional opinion
As a patient, you are not bound to the diagnosis and therapy suggestions of a single doctor. To secure yourself, you can get a so-called second medical opinion. This means that the case is checked again by an independent second doctor. On the one hand, this allows possible uncertainties to be resolved with regard to the therapy proposed first, and on the other hand it gives you a better overview of possible treatment alternatives. The right to a second medical opinion exists, for example, in the case of so-called predictable interventions.
Some health insurance companies reimburse the costs for obtaining a second opinion. Therefore, it makes sense to ask the health insurance company in advance whether the costs will be borne and what the conditions are. If the health insurance company rejects the transfer, the patient must bear the financial burden himself.
Even those who are seriously ill usually want to be able to make personal decisions (e.g. on treatment) for as long as they can. In fact, it is best to take care of your childcare right as a precaution, whether you get sick or not. In order to be optimally secured, there are the three legally approved instruments: living will, precautionary mandate and care order. For example, they regulate whether the patient may be artificially ventilated.
This is how these instruments differ:
- Living will: Every adult can use the living will to determine from the outset whether to allow or prohibit certain medical examinations or medical procedures. This ensures that the patient’s will is implemented, even if he is no longer able to express himself (because, for example, he is in an artificial coma).
- Precautionary power of attorney: Every adult can also authorize a confidant to decide whether medical treatment should be carried out if the patient is no longer able to decide for himself.
- Care order: The adult can also suggest a person who can make important legal decisions for him if the patient can no longer do this himself. For example, these individuals could decide whether the patient will move to a nursing home. If there is no desired supervisor, he will be put to justice. If the care decision is available, an attempt is made to meet the patient’s wishes.
These documents are so important because they allow the patient self-determination to the end. For example, a valid living will determines whether the patient wants to be kept alive under all circumstances, even if that means that they may suffer serious and permanent damage and / or will never be responsive again. In the worst-case scenario, the relevant documents must therefore always be up-to-date and easy to find – at best, a trusted person knows their whereabouts.
Right to self-determination
Especially if you don’t know yourself, as a patient you often rely on the doctor’s proposed treatment options. But every cancer patient should know that they can have a say in their therapy. In fact, he has to consent to any medical treatment – if this consent is not available, the treatment can be considered an injury.
You can only do without them if immediate treatment is essential and you cannot get the patient’s consent in good time. Relatives or other confidants are often given advice instead on why the medical measure makes sense.
For the consent to be valid, the attending physician must fully inform the patient about all factors of the treatment. These include, for example, the chances of success and possible risks. This information must be clearly understandable for the patient. This too can only be omitted if the treatment cannot be postponed or if the patient expressly renounces it.
The living will is also important for the right to self-determination. If the patient can no longer consent to have the treatment carried out, the living will specifies the permitted medical treatment options.
Consent to participate in clinical trials
Participants for clinical trials are constantly being sought, through which new therapeutic measures or medications are to be tested. These studies are prerequisites for the treatments to be approved. Each examination has different criteria that determine whether a patient can participate or not. In general, the person concerned can also decide whether to participate in the study or not. Before the start of the examination, it is checked by the authorities and monitored during the course, and the so-called ethics committee also checks whether patient protection is complied with.
For example, the benefit of participating in such studies may be that patients can receive new therapies that are not yet officially approved. However, these therapies are usually not yet very well researched – that is, for example, relatively little is known about possible side effects or interactions. Accordingly, participation is always associated with certain risks. Every patient should consult their doctor in advance about this.
Cancer sick – who pays what?
As a rule, costs incurred in connection with cancer are covered by the statutory health insurance and nursing care insurance. The health insurance usually pays for the following costs:
- Treatment by the doctor as well as psychotherapy
- Treatment in the hospital
- Assumption of costs for journeys
- Nursing at home – as long as there is no need for care within the meaning of the Social Code and no person who also lives in the household can care for the patient to the extent necessary
- Rehabilitation benefits
- Provision of necessary aids such as medicines or bandages
- Housekeeping – e.g. B. in hospital, when no other person living in the household can continue the household or a child lives in the household before the age of twelve
- Outpatient palliative care
- Hospice services
- Sick pay
If a hospital stay is planned, but cannot be carried out for various reasons, the doctor can also order home nursing.
If there is a need for care within the meaning of the Social Code, the care insurance covers the costs of care at home and inpatient. Nursing care insurance can provide the following benefits:
- Nursing benefits (for example, a home care assistant)
- Home care if the actual caregiver is prevented
- Long-term care allowance if you have employed a nursing assistant yourself
- Nursing courses, for example if a relative cares for the sick
- Short-term care (maximum four weeks per year)
- Nursing aids
- Money for necessary measures to improve the living environment
- Inpatient care if, for example, home care is not possible
The following applies: It is always tried to avoid the need for long-term care as such. This applies if employment is reduced by at least 60 percent or if the degree of disability is at least 60 percent. Measures such as medical treatment or rehab always have priority.
Sickness benefit: who will help me with lost earnings?
Those who are privately insured must compensate for sickness-related loss of earnings through a so-called daily sickness benefit insurance. On the other hand, those who are subject to social security contributions generally receive their normal salary in the first six weeks of their illness. Then the so-called sickness benefit is used. The amount of this sick pay depends on the income, usually 70 percent of the gross wage, but up to 90 percent of the net wage is also possible. The statutory sickness benefit is currently limited to a maximum of 105.88 euros per day.
Depending on the course of the illness, a so-called disability pension can also be claimed by the statutory pension insurance. In addition, employees may also be able to receive financial aid from the social services or the employment agency. And there are various foundations and associations that can also help cancer patients in special emergencies.
Many treatment services have to be covered by the statutory insured. This means that an additional payment up to the legally defined limit is required. As a rule, this limit is two percent of the annual gross living income. Cancer patients often face high costs. For example, for medication, treatments and other services such as travel expenses to the hospital. If the burden limit is reached, however, the health insurance company can exempt you from the additional payment for the rest of the year.