Client Rights: Rights of Patients

The following is a brief summary of the rights of patients under Wisconsin law and administrative code.  Patient rights with an asterisk (*) behind them may be limited or denied for certain reasons. See Client Rights - Limitation or Denial for further information.

Treatment rights

Every patient has the right to:

  • Receive prompt and adequate treatment.
  • Participate in their treatment planning.
  • Be informed of their treatment and care.
  • Refuse treatment and medications unless court-ordered.
  • Be free from unnecessary or excessive medications.

Record privacy and access

(See also Confidentiality of Treatment Records)

  • Staff must keep patient information confidential
  • Records cannot be released without patient consent with some exceptions
  • Patients may see their records
  • They can always see records of their medications and health treatments
  • During treatment, access may be limited if the risks outweigh benefits
  • Patients may challenge the accuracy, completeness, timeliness or relevance of entries in their records

Communication rights

Every (in)patient has the right to:

  • Have reasonable access to a telephone *
  • See (or refuse to see) visitors daily *
  • Send or receive mail
  • Contact public officials, lawyers or patient advocates

Personal rights

Every (in)patient has the right to:

  • Have the least restrictive environment, except for forensic patients
  • Not be secluded or restrained except in an emergency when necessary to prevent harm to self or others
  • Wear their own clothing and use their own possessions *
  • Have regular and frequent exercise opportunities
  • Have regular and frequent access to the outdoors
  • Have staff make reasonable (non-arbitrary) decisions about them
  • Refuse to work – except for personal housekeeping tasks
  • Be paid for work they agree to do that is of financial benefit to the facility

Privacy rights

Every (in)patient has the right to:

  • Not be filmed or taped without his or her consent
  • Have privacy in toileting and bathing *
  • Have a reasonable amount of secure storage space for his or her possessions *

Miscellaneous rights

Every patient has the right to:

  • Be treated with dignity and respect by all staff of the provider
  • Be informed of his or her rights
  • Be informed of any costs of his or her care
  • Refuse electroconvulsive therapy
  • Refuse drastic treatment measures
  • File complaints about violations of his or her rights
  • Be free from any retribution for filing complaints

Laws and codes

Related topics


Last Revised: September 28, 2020