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8 Things You Should Know About the Bill of Rights

8 Things You Should Know About the Bill of Rights

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Why was the Bill of Rights tacked onto the Constitution just three years after its ratification in June 1788? Essentially, anti-Federalist delegates objected to the proposed draft, arguing that it provided a framework for a new centralized government but failed to safeguard individual liberties and states’ rights. They finally agreed to ratify the Constitution on the condition that Congress amend the document to include these protections.


While drafting the Bill of Rights, James Madison drew heavily on the Virginia Declaration of Rights, written by George Mason and ratified shortly before the Constitution of Virginia in June 1776. Considered the first constitutional protection of individual rights, it also provided a blueprint for the U.S. Declaration of Independence and France’s Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen.


Since America’s founding fathers had just spent years fighting for independence from Britain, it might seem ironic that an English law—the Bill of Rights of 1689—served as another inspiration for the U.S. Bill of Rights. The two documents share a number of guarantees, including the right to petition and protection again “cruel and unusual punishments.”


James Madison was an unlikely author of the proposed amendments that eventually became the Bill of Rights. He initially argued that the Constitution itself sufficiently restricted the federal government and that Americans inherently enjoyed natural rights even in the absence of laws ensuring them. Madison’s mentor Thomas Jefferson, who was then serving as ambassador to France, helped convince him of their necessity in 1789.


Despite its seemingly inclusive wording, the Bill of Rights did not apply to all Americans—and it wouldn’t for more than 130 years. At the time of its ratification, the “people” referenced in the amendments were understood to be land-owning white men only. Blacks only received equal protection under the law in 1868, and even then it was purely on paper. Women couldn’t vote in all states before 1920, and Native Americans did not achieve full citizenship until 1924.


The original Bill of Rights included 12 amendments, but only 10 became law in 1791. One of the omitted articles, which deals with the size of electoral districts, has yet to be ratified. The other, which prohibits pay raises for Congress members until the next election takes place, was ratified in 1992 as the 27th Amendment.


George Washington commissioned 14 handwritten copies of the Bill of Rights—one for each of the original 13 colonies and one for Congress. Twelve of the originals survive to this day. North Carolina’s copy disappeared during the Civil War when a Union soldier took it home as a souvenir; it resurfaced in 2003 thanks to the efforts of an undercover FBI agent.


One hundred fifty years after the Bill of Rights became law, President Franklin D. Roosevelt called on the American people to observe December 15 as Bill of Rights Day. Just days after he made his speech, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and celebrations were cancelled. Though relatively obscure, it remains a federal holiday.

Bill of Rights

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Bill of Rights, formally An Act Declaring the Rights and Liberties of the Subject and Settling the Succession of the Crown (1689), one of the basic instruments of the British constitution, the result of the long 17th-century struggle between the Stuart kings and the English people and Parliament. It incorporated the provisions of the Declaration of Rights, acceptance of which had been the condition upon which the throne, held to have been vacated by James II, was offered to the prince and princess of Orange, afterward William III and Mary II. With the Toleration Act (1689), granting religious toleration to all Protestants, the Triennial Act (1694), ordering general elections to be held every three years, and the Act of Settlement (1701), providing for the Hanoverian succession, the Bill of Rights provided the foundation on which the government rested after the Glorious Revolution (1688–89). It purported to introduce no new principles but merely to declare explicitly the existing law. The revolution settlement, however, made monarchy clearly conditional on the will of Parliament and provided a freedom from arbitrary government of which most Englishmen were notably proud during the 18th century.

The main purpose of the act was unequivocally to declare illegal various practices of James II. Among such practices proscribed were the royal prerogative of dispensing with the law in certain cases, the complete suspension of laws without the consent of Parliament, and the levying of taxes and the maintenance of a standing army in peacetime without specific parliamentary authorization. A number of clauses sought to eliminate royal interference in parliamentary matters, stressing that elections must be free and that members must have complete freedom of speech. Certain forms of interference in the course of justice were also proscribed. The act also dealt with the proximate succession to the throne, settling it on Mary’s heirs, then on those of her sister, afterward Queen Anne, and then on those of William, provided they were Protestants.

The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica This article was most recently revised and updated by Amy Tikkanen, Corrections Manager.

8 Things You Should Know About the Bill of Rights - HISTORY

The Patient's Bill of Rights AHA

The Patient's Bill of Rights was first adopted by the American Hospital Association in 1973 and revised in October 1992. Patient rights were developed with the expectation that hospitals and health care institutions would support these rights in the interest of delivering effective patient care. The American Hospital Association encourages institutions to translate and/or simplify the bill of rights to meet the needs of their specific patient populations and to make patient rights and responsibilities understandable to patients and their families. According to the American Hospital Association, a patient's rights can be exercised on this or her behalf by a designated surrogate or proxy decision-maker if the patient lacks decision-making capacity, is legally incompetent, or is a minor.

  • The patient has the right to considerate and respectful care.
  • The patient has the right and is encouraged to obtain from physicians and other direct caregivers relevant, current, and understandable information about his or her diagnosis, treatment, and prognosis.
  • Except in emergencies when the patient lacks the ability to make decisions and the need for treatment is urgent, the patient is entitled to a chance to discuss and request information related to the specific procedures and/or treatments available, the risks involved, the possible length of recovery, and the medically reasonable alternatives to existing treatments along with their accompanying risks and benefits.
  • The patient has the right to know the identity of physicians, nurses, and others involved in his or her care, as well as when those involved are students, residents, or other trainees. The patient also has the right to know the immediate and long-term financial significance of treatment choices insofar as they are known.
  • The patient has the right to make decisions about the plan of care before and during the course of treatment and to refuse a recommended treatment or plan of care if it is permitted by law and hospital policy. The patient also has the right to be informed of the medical consequences of this action. In case of such refusal, the patient is still entitled to appropriate care and services that the hospital provides or to be transferred to another hospital. The hospital should notify patients of any policy at the other hospital that might affect patient choice.
  • The patient has the right to have an advance directive (such as a living will, health care proxy, or durable power of attorney for health care) concerning treatment or designating a surrogate decision-maker and to expect that the hospital will honor that directive as permitted by law and hospital policy.
  • Health care institutions must advise the patient of his or her rights under state law and hospital policy to make informed medical choices, must ask if the patient has an advance directive, and must include that information in patient records. The patient has the right to know about any hospital policy that may keep it from carrying out a legally valid advance directive.
  • The patient has the right to privacy. Case discussion, consultation, examination, and treatment should be conducted to protect each patient's privacy.
  • The patient has the right to expect that all communications and records pertaining to his/her care will be treated confidentially by the hospital, except in cases such as suspected abuse and public health hazards when reporting is permitted or required by law. The patient has the right to expect that the hospital will emphasize confidentiality of this information when it releases it to any other parties entitled to review information in these records.
  • The patient has the right to review his or her medical records and to have the information explained or interpreted as necessary, except when restricted by law.
  • The patient has the right to expect that, within its capacity and policies, a hospital will make reasonable response to the request of a patient for appropriate and medically indicated care and services. The hospital must provide evaluation, service, and/or referral as indicated by the urgency of the case. When medically appropriate and legally permissible, or when a patient has so requested, a patient may be transferred to another facility. The institution to which the patient is to be transferred must first have accepted the patient for transfer. The patient also must have the benefit of complete information and explanation concerning the need for, risks, benefits, and alternatives to such a transfer.
  • The patient has the right to ask and be told of the existence of any business relationship among the hospital, educational institutions, other health care providers, and/or payers that may influence the patient's treatment and care.
  • The patient has the right to consent to or decline to participate in proposed research studies or human experimentation or to have those studies fully explained before they consent. A patient who declines to participate in research or experimentation is still entitled to the most effective care that the hospital can otherwise provide.
  • The patient has the right to expect reasonable continuity of care and to be informed by physicians and other caregivers of available and realistic patient care options when hospital care is no longer appropriate.
  • The patient has the right to be informed of hospital policies and practices that relate to patient care treatment, and responsibilities. The patient has the right to be informed of available resources for resolving disputes, grievances, and conflicts, such as ethics committees, patient representatives, or other mechanisms available in the institution. The patient has the right to be informed of the hospital's charges for services and available payment methods.

The collaborative nature of health care requires that patient and/or their families and surrogates participate in their care. The effectiveness of care and patient satisfaction with the course of treatment depends, in part, on the patient's fulfilling certain responsibilities:

  • Patients are responsible for providing information about past illnesses, hospitalizations, medications, and other health-related matters. .
  • Patients must take responsibility for requesting additional information or clarification about their health status or treatment when they do not fully understand the current information or instructions.
  • Patients are responsible for making sure that the health care institution has a copy of their written advance directive if they have one.
  • Patients are responsible for informing their physicians and other caregivers if they anticipate problems in following prescribed treatment.
  • Patients also should be aware that the hospital has to be reasonably efficient and equitable in providing care to other patients and the community. The hospital's rules and regulations are designed to help the hospital meet this obligation.
  • Patients and their families are responsible for being considerate of and making reasonable accommodations to the needs of the hospital, other patients, medical staff, and hospital employees.
  • Patients are responsible for providing necessary information for insurance claims and for working with the hospital as needed to make payment arrangements.
  • A patient's health depends on much more than health care services. Patients are responsible for recognizing the impact of their lifestyles on their personal health.

American Hospital Association (800) 424-4301 (800) 242-2626 (for material orders)

American Hospital Association. Chicago, 1992. Catalog no. 157759.

Return to the Presentation of Issues section of the chapter by clicking here> section.

The Right to Keep and Bear Arms

This right under the Second Amendment is the subject of much debate. The Second Amendment discussion creates a lot of tension because of the balancing act between the government performing its duty to maintain a safe and orderly society, and the government not infringing on the individual's right to protect themselves with firearms. The Supreme Court clarified that the Second Amendment applies to states. The underlying issue is that gun regulations vary drastically from one state to another, especially concerning open carry laws. Always research the law or consult with an attorney before bringing a firearm into a public space.


At the convention, the motion to include a bill of rights wasn't made by Mason, although he seconded it. Instead, credit belongs to one Elbridge Gerry, who had also withheld his signature from the Constitution. He'd go on to become a notorious figure during his tenure as the governor of Massachusetts. A staunch Democratic-Republican, Gerry was governor during the blatantly partisan re-drawing of the Bay State's congressional districts. These days, we call this unfair political maneuver "gerrymandering."

Facts about Bill of Rights 7: the refusal

On 17th September 1787, there were three persons who refused to sign the bill of rights. Those included Edmund Randolph of Virginia, George Mason of Virginia, and Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts.

Facts about Bill of Rights 8: the white men

The white men were the land owning individuals called as “people” in the Bill of Rights. In 1920, the women got the right to vote. In 1924, the full American citizenship was gifted to the Native Americans. Check American slavery facts here.

Do you have any opinion on facts about Bill of Rights?

8 Things You Should Know About Challenging A Medical Bill

Imagine you’ve been denied employment because of something in your medical history. You and your doctor can’t figure it out, until you do a little digging into your paperwork. Turns out, someone in your doctor’s office transposed some digits on a billing code and accidentally billed you for leprosy.

Then there was the physician who wasn’t happy with the reimbursement he was receiving from Medicare, so he was billing for three visits per week even though he was only seeing the patient every Monday.

Another patient drove to the nearest hospital after being stung by a scorpion. There, she received two injections. Her bill: $58,000.

“It is absurd, and there are all kinds of crazy stories like that,” says Sharon Hollander, author of Medical Billing Horror Stories. “Sometimes a patient is charged $45 for one aspirin.”

Billing errors or overcharges that leave patients in the lurch could become a bigger problem in the future, as high-deductible plans make consumers responsible for more of their up-front medical costs. As healthcare costs increase, more than half of companies are introducing or expanding their high-deductible plan offerings, and nearly a third plan to offer only high-deductible health insurance options to employees in 2015, according to a recent survey from the National Business Group on Health.

(Data: National Business Group on Health)

“Before, patients weren’t paying too much attention because they knew they had insurance,” Hollander says. Now, with high-deductible health plans, patients are often responsible for thousands of dollars in medical costs before insurance kicks in. The average HDHP deductible in 2013 was more than $2,000, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, and the average individual on an Obamacare bronze plan was responsible for a deductible of $5,081, according to a study by HealthPocket. So it’s worth your while to pay attention.

“All medical bills are negotiable,” Hollander says. At the very least, you may be able to work out a payment plan or land a lower fee if you can pay on the spot.

If you’re thinking of disputing a medical charge, here are some pointers:

Keep good notes. From the very first phone call, write down the date, time and the name of the person to whom you speak. “Often, with insurance companies especially, you can’t ever get back to the same person,” says Victoria Caras, founder of Aspen Medical Billing Advocates. “So you have to be able to say, ‘On August 12 I spoke to Debbie, who said XYZ.’”

Request the right bill. If you’re questioning hospital charges, you will want to ask for a bill that details every single charge individually. That may be called a line-item or detailed bill. “That would show every single thing you ever received, from every bottle of IV fluid to every procedure, large and small,” Caras says.

Start with a phone call. If you’re questioning a bill from a physician’s office, you may be able to ask the doctor herself about the charge, or you may have to start with someone in charge of billing who can work on it for you. Whatever you do, keep calling until you get the right person on the line. “Be both patient and persistent, because you’re going to have to go through several levels of challenging it,” Caras says. “The person who first picks up the phone doesn’t have the authority to adjust that bill.”

Follow up in writing. After your initial call, put your request in writing and mail it. Then fax it as well. “I think it garners more attention if you do it both ways,” Caras says.

Do your research. You can’t refuse to pay a charge just because it feels excessive to you. “When you make a challenge like that, you need some basis on which you think the amount is outrageous,” Caras says. In other words, you need some idea of what that procedure might cost elsewhere, or in general. Start with a site such as, which can help you estimate prices for a procedure in your area. Alternatively, some insurers offer a way to price healthcare services, such as UnitedHealthcare’s myHealthcare Cost Estimator. If you know someone who’s had the same thing done and you know how much they were charged, that’s also a valid comparison.

Don’t worry about your doctor. Many people are afraid to question a charge because they feel they won’t get good treatment from the doctor or hospital afterward. “But in fact, most of the time a doctor doesn’t even know what the cost of their services are—they have outside billing agencies,” Caras says. “You shouldn’t be concerned that your doctor is going to compromise your quality of care if you challenge a bill. I have never seen that happen.”

…or your creditworthiness. The good news is that if you have medical debt on the books, it will no longer crater your credit. In a new FICO scoring system, medical collections debt will have less impact on your credit score—a welcome change for consumers struggling to pay bills from a serious illness or who aren’t even aware that they have a medical bill in collections.

Get help if you need it. If you’re really overwhelmed or facing an enormous amount of medical debt, consider talking to a medical billing advocate, who can help you locate errors in your bills and haggle with healthcare providers on your behalf. Billing advocates sometimes charge an hourly fee of $50 to $200 or take a percentage of whatever they save you, up to 35 percent. Look for someone who will offer an initial consult free of charge, and who has a proven track record and tough negotiation skills. “I had a patient the other day whose bill was $160,000 with no insurance,” Caras says. “He ended up getting a 50 percent discount on that bill. That’s a negotiated result that a patient, in all honesty, probably cannot get for themselves.”

Here's Everything You Need To Know About The Patient's Bill Of Rights

This is the first in a series of articles that focuses on your rights as a patient—both inside the hospital and out. First up, we explore the “Patient’s Bill of Rights” (yes, that’s a thing!).

If you’ve ever been hospitalized and felt that you were at the mercy of the medical staff, you’re not alone. But you’re wrong.

As a patient, you have right to expect certain things during your hospital stay and from your healthcare team. In fact, those rights are spelled out in something called the Patient’s Bill of Rights.

For starters, it’s not one bill or single document, but a list of guarantees to every person who seeks treatment in a hospital or other healthcare facility. Typically, these guarantees are that you’ll be kept informed about your condition and treatment, treated fairly and have autonomy over medical decisions, among other things.

The Patient’s Bill of Rights sets the foundation for open, honest communication between you, your family members and your healthcare providers. And it explicitly encourages you to take an active role in making decisions about your treatment and care (more advice on how to do that here).

A brief history

“A Patient’s Bill of Rights” was the name of a document the American Hospital Association (AHA) introduced in the early 1970s. It was revised in 1992. It’s a list of 12 expectations you should have regarding information about your case, communication with your health care team, treatment, medical records and more.

The AHA encouraged each healthcare facility in the United States to adapt these 12 rights to fit the needs of their particular patient community. That’s why there’s not one single version of the Patient’s Bill of Rights, but many versions.

In 2003, in an effort to promote the idea that healthcare is a partnership between you and your provider, the AHA replaced its original Patient’s Bill of Rights with The Patient Care Partnership. This is simply a brochure (available in multiple languages) that tells you in plain, easy-to-understand terms what you can rightfully expect during your hospital stays.

  • High-quality care
  • A clean, safe environment
  • That you’ll be involved in your care
  • That your privacy will be protected
  • Help when leaving the hospital
  • Help with billing claims

You can ask for a copy of The Patient Care Partnership when you’re admitted to the hospital.

Extra protections against insurance companies

Perhaps the most sweeping changes to patients’ rights legislation happened in June 2010, when President Barack Obama announced regulations that protect you as a patient when dealing with insurance companies. Many of those protections took effect in September 2010, after the enactment of the Affordable Care Act. Others were phased in slowly and took effect in 2014.

Two of the most significant of protections deal with dependents and insurance coverage for preexisting conditions. New regulations allow you to get health insurance even if you have a medical condition you’ve been wrestling with for a long time.

Prior to the passage of this new Patient’s Bill of Rights, insurance companies could deny you coverage if you had a preexisting condition.

What’s more, the Patient’s Bill of Rights under the Affordable Care Act allows you to get some preventative health screenings, like annual physicals, without extra fees or co-pays. Read the document in its entirety here.

Lorrie Klemons, a North Carolina-based patient advocate, says these initiatives play a key role in helping patients feel more empowered about their care. “These new protections create an important foundation of patients’ rights in the private health insurance market that puts Americans in charge of their own health.”

In the next article in this series, we explore the topic of informed consent—a critical component of patient empowerment.

Reasons to Oppose a Bill of Rights

There were five very good reasons to oppose a Bill of Rights at the time. The first was that the very concept of a Bill of Rights implied, to many thinkers of the revolutionary era, a monarchy. The British concept of a Bill of Rights originated with the Coronation Charter of King Henry I in AD 1100, followed by the Magna Carta of AD 1215 and the English Bill of Rights of 1689. All three documents were concessions, by kings, to the power of the people's lower-ranked leaders or representatives -- a promise by a powerful hereditary monarch that he would not choose to use his power in a certain way.

No Fear of a Monarch

In the proposed U.S. system, the people themselves -- or at least White male landowners of a certain age -- could vote for their own representatives, and hold those representatives accountable on a regular basis. This meant that the people had nothing to fear from an unaccountable monarch if they didn't like the policies their representatives were implementing, so went the theory, then they could choose new representatives to undo the bad policies and write better policies. Why one might ask, do the people need to be protected from violating their own rights?

Rallying Point for the Constitution

The second reason was that the Bill of Rights was used, by Antifederalists, as a rallying point to argue in favor of the pre-constitutional status quo -- a confederation of independent states, operating under the glorified treaty that was the Articles of Confederation. Antifederalists no doubt knew that a debate over the content of a Bill of Rights could delay the adoption of the Constitution indefinitely, so initial advocacy for the Bill of Rights was not necessarily made in good faith.
The third was the idea that the Bill of Rights would imply that the federal government's power is otherwise unlimited. Alexander Hamilton argued this point most forcefully in Federalist Paper #84:

No Practical Power

The fourth reason was that a Bill of Rights would have no practical power it would have functioned as a mission statement, and there would have been no means by which the legislature could have been forced to adhere to it. The Supreme Court did not assert the power to strike down unconstitutional legislation until 1803, and even state courts were so reticent to enforce their own bills of rights that they had come to be regarded as excuses for legislators to state their political philosophies. This is why Hamilton dismissed such bills of rights as "volumes of those aphorisms . which would sound much better in a treatise of ethics than in a constitution of government."

And the fifth reason was that the Constitution itself already included statements in defense of specific rights that might have been impacted by the limited federal jurisdiction of the time. Article I, Section 9 of the Constitution, for instance, arguably is a bill of rights of sorts -- defending habeas corpus, and prohibiting any policy that would give law enforcement agencies the power to search without a warrant (powers granted under British law by "Writs of Assistance"). And Article VI protects religious freedom to a degree when it states that "no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States." Many of the early American political figures must have found the idea of a more general bill of rights, restricting policy in areas beyond the logical reach of federal law, ridiculous.

Healthcare professionals have a responsibility to provide medical treatment to any person with an emergency medical condition. Patients have the right to emergency medical treatment regardless of their ability to pay.

According to EMTALA or the Emergency Medical Treatment & Labor Act, an emergency medical condition is defined as "a condition manifesting itself by acute symptoms of sufficient severity (including severe pain) such that the absence of immediate medical attention could reasonably be expected to result in placing the individual's health [or the health of an unborn child] in serious jeopardy, serious impairment to bodily functions, or serious dysfunction of bodily organs."  

The Bill of Rights: What Does it Say?

The Bill of Rights is the first 10 Amendments to the Constitution. It spells out Americans’ rights in relation to their government. It guarantees civil rights and liberties to the individual—like freedom of speech, press, and religion. It sets rules for due process of law and reserves all powers not delegated to the Federal Government to the people or the States. And it specifies that “the enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”

The First Amendment

The First Amendment provides several rights protections: to express ideas through speech and the press, to assemble or gather with a group to protest or for other reasons, and to ask the government to fix problems. It also protects the right to religious beliefs and practices. It prevents the government from creating or favoring a religion.

The Second Amendment

The Second Amendment protects the right to keep and bear arms.

The Third Amendment

The Third Amendment prevents government from forcing homeowners to allow soldiers to use their homes. Before the Revolutionary War, laws gave British soldiers the right to take over private homes.

The Fourth Amendment

The Fourth Amendment bars the government from unreasonable search and seizure of an individual or their private property.

The Fifth Amendment

The Fifth Amendment provides several protections for people accused of crimes. It states that serious criminal charges must be started by a grand jury. A person cannot be tried twice for the same offense (double jeopardy) or have property taken away without just compensation. People have the right against self-incrimination and cannot be imprisoned without due process of law (fair procedures and trials.)

The Sixth Amendment

The Sixth Amendment provides additional protections to people accused of crimes, such as the right to a speedy and public trial, trial by an impartial jury in criminal cases, and to be informed of criminal charges. Witnesses must face the accused, and the accused is allowed his or her own witnesses and to be represented by a lawyer.

The Seventh Amendment

The Seventh Amendment extends the right to a jury trial in Federal civil cases.

The Eighth Amendment

The Eighth Amendment bars excessive bail and fines and cruel and unusual punishment.

The Ninth Amendment

The Ninth Amendment states that listing specific rights in the Constitution does not mean that people do not have other rights that have not been spelled out.

The Tenth Amendment

The Tenth Amendment says that the Federal Government only has those powers delegated in the Constitution. If it isn’t listed, it belongs to the states or to the people.

Watch the video: What is the Bill of Rights? (July 2022).


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