The National Human Rights Commission, NHRC has called on handlers of COVID-19 patients across the country to respect the dignity of their persons.
Warning against the use of force on the patients, the commission said nobody should be forcibly taken to isolation or treatment centres, adding that use of force should be only a last resort.
This is contained in a set of Standard Minimum Guidelines for the protection of the rights of COVID-19 patients released by the commission through NHRC Executive Secretary, Mr. Tony Ojukwu, in Abuja, on Wednesday.
Ojukwu said the guidelines were issued “following incessant violations of the rights of patients in treatment centres in some parts of the country resulting in protests and in some cases and abscondment of patients”.
It was stated in the 10-page document that the “commission shall monitor and report on regular basis, the implementation of these Standard Minimum Guidelines.”
On the need to ensure the dignity of persons of the patients, the document states, “No patient shall be forcibly taken away to the centres or any other location or be subjected to physical restraints of any sort during transportation or for the purpose of testing or treatment.
“Such process of taking away or restraint shall only be as a matter of last resort and care must be taken not to cause bodily harm to the patient.
“In situations where the health authorities will be conveying patients from their homes to the centre, such patients shall be accorded their rights to dignity and privacy and shall be treated with utmost respect and compassion.”
Apart from seeking the protection of patients’ rights to dignity, the guidelines also seek to protect among others, the patients’ rights to adequate and timely medical Information; equality, and non-discrimination; dignity of person, mental well-being, and staff of treatment centres, and access to “a safe and secured accommodation at the centres”.
The document also provides for the patients’ rights to access to nutritious food and clean drinking water, privacy and confidentiality, religious observances as well as access to communication and information.
The guidelines also seek special protection and guarantees for vulnerable groups, such as older persons, children and infants, persons with disabilities, and persons in Intensive Care Unit.
On participation in clinical and drug trials, it provides that, “The centre shall ensure that every patient that is participating in a clinical trial shall give a written consent in the presence of an informed family member or legal representative.”
It added that the centre must provide “detailed explanation of possible side effects and consequences of clinical or drug trials to patients” and that the health authorities and the Centre shall obtain a written consent from the patients and his informed family member or legal representative before the extraction or donation of body tissues for experiments or further treatments of COVID-19.”
Speaking to journalists in Abuja, the Executive Secretary of the NHRC, Ojukwu, said the guidelines were issued in line with the mandate of the Commission to protect and promote human rights in accordance with its establishment Act.
While commending governments and health authorities at federal and state levels for the efforts already made to put facilities in place at the centres and for other palliatives.
He urged them to “study and put mechanisms in place to implement the Standard Minimum Guidelines”.