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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

About FDA

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General Role of an Ombudsman

An ombudsman is a high-level person in an organization who receives and investigates complaints, and facilitates resolution of problems in an informal, unbiased manner.

Ombudsman is a word that originated in Sweden, is derived from old Norse, and means 'representative, commissioner, or agent'; the term has evolved to denote someone in any organization who receives and investigates complaints in an informal, unbiased manner.

The American Bar Association states that ombuds "receive complaints and questions from individuals concerning people within an entity or the functioning of an entity. They work for the resolution of particular issues and, where appropriate, make recommendations for the improvement of the general administration of the entities they serve. Ombuds protect: the legitimate interests and rights of individuals with respect to each other; individual rights against the excesses of public and private bureaucracies; and those who are affected by and those who work within these organizations."

The United States Ombudsman's Association (USOA) defines governmental ombuds as "an independent, impartial public official with authority and responsibility to receive, investigate or informally address complaints about governmental actions, and, when appropriate, make findings and recommendations, and publish reports."