5. Right to personal privacy and sexual expression

A patient has the right to personal privacy. The hospital environment and staff are to encourage the human dignity of each patient, treat all patients with respect, and help all patients create a positive self-image. For example, a patient’s room may be searched only when staff have a reasonable suspicion that there are contraband or restricted items in the room. A patient may watch a search of his or her room. During a search, staff must be respectful of the patient’s personal belongings and personal space.

Any time staff searches a patient’s body for dangerous items, the hospital must document a reasonable basis for the search, inform the patient of that basis, and maintain the patient’s privacy and dignity as much as possible. At WSH, a search of a patient must be conducted by staff of the same gender as the patient. At ESH, at least two staff must be present for a patient search unless the situation is an emergency. 

Both ESH and WSH have policies regarding sexual expression. Both hospitals strongly promote abstinence from sexual activity in the hospital. However, at this time, neither hospital has a blanket ban on pornographic materials, or on sexual activity. Both policies provide for individual assessments of sexual history and behavior, as well as treatment team involvement in patients’ sexual decisions. A patient should receive individualized treatment that supports his or her right to appropriate sexual expression in accordance with professional judgment while at the hospital.

Go to the next page: 6. Right to religious exercise.

Go to Section II: What a patient can do when rights are taken away.

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