Medical Law

What is Medical Law?

Medical law is the body of laws concerning the rights and responsibilities of medical professionals and their patients. The main areas of focus for medical law include confidentiality, negligence and other torts related to medical treatment (especially medical malpractice), and criminal law and ethics.


Medical doctors and mental health professionals have long had a tradition of confidentiality with their patients, dating back to the English Common Law. However, this tradition has been codified in recent years, so that anything said by a patient to a doctor or mental health professional in the course of diagnosis or treatment is privileged and confidential unless the individual expresses an imminent intention to harm himself or others.

This confidentiality has been reinforced and expanded with the advent of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA. This federal law was designed to deal with a number of issues pertaining to the increasingly mobile and connected nature of our culture, and created a number of legal safeguards to, among other things, protect the confidentiality of a patient's medical and mental health records. The Act created a number of new, formal requirements about disclosures, ways in which information can be exchanged, and keeping patient information confidential. Those who violate the Act can face significant liability.

Negligence and Other Torts

Those diagnosing and treating others as a profession are held to a higher standard than a passerby on the street who render aid. Medical malpractice is one of the key focuses of medical law, and relates to the liability of a medical professional for negligence in the diagnosis or treatment of a patient resulting in injury or death. But, other torts do cross over into the field of medial law. For example, it is possible for a medical professional to defame a patient if they wrongfully disclose untrue information about the patient's health. Another example is battery when one performs a treatment on someone who has declined such treatment (often for religious reasons). There are a number of other possible torts, as well, so if you are a medical professional concerned about limiting your exposure, you should contact an attorney who can review your practice and advise you about how best to reduce your liability profile.

Crime and Ethics

Criminal law and ethics have taken a very large role in medical law in recent years. The rise of so-called “pill mills” have raised issues about the role of medical professionals in the trafficking of controlled substances, both from a criminal and an ethical standpoint. Other examples have included famous cases involving the euthanasia of terminally ill patients and sexual assaults against anesthetized patients.

More Information

For more information about Medical Law, visit the resources listed below. You can also contact an attorney in your area with your specific questions or assistance with your legal issues. A list of attorneys in your area may be found by visiting our Law Firms page.


Know Your Rights!

Medical Law - US

  • ABA - Health Care Law

    The ABA opposes federal legislation to preempt state medical liability laws and legislation to require patients injured by malpractice to utilize "health courts" that deny injured patients a right to a trial by jury or full compensation for injuries caused by medical negligence. The ABA supports proposed "Patients’ Bill of Rights" legislation which would amend ERISA so that it no longer would preempt various state health care liability laws.

  • Administrative Simplification Compliance Act (ASCA)

    The Administrative Simplification Compliance Act (ASCA) amended the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) and requires that all claims submitted to Medicare on October 16, 2003 and beyond be done so electronically except for certain circumstances.

  • Affordable Care Act

    The Affordable Care Act, passed by Congress and signed into law by the President in March 2010, gives you better health security by putting in place comprehensive health insurance reforms that hold insurance companies accountable, lower health care costs, guarantee more choice, and enhance the quality of care for all Americans.

  • Health Information Privacy

    The HIPAA Privacy Rule provides federal protections for personal health information held by covered entities and gives patients an array of rights with respect to that information. At the same time, the Privacy Rule is balanced so that it permits the disclosure of personal health information needed for patient care and other important purposes.

  • Legal Medical Marijuana States and DC

    In 1972, the US Congress placed marijuana in Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act because they considered it to have "no accepted medical use." Since then, 15 of 50 US states and DC have legalized the medical use of marijuana.

  • Office of the Surgeon General

    The Office of the Surgeon General, under the direction of the Surgeon General, oversees the operations of the 6,500-member Commissioned Corps of the U.S. Public Health Service and provides support for the Surgeon General in the accomplishment of her other duties. The Office is part of the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health in the Office of the Secretary, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Surgeon General serves as America's Doctor by providing Americans the best scientific information available on how to improve their health and reduce the risk of illness and injury.

  • Patient Safety and Quality Improvement Act

    The Patient Safety and Quality Improvement Act signifies the Federal Government's commitment to fostering a culture of patient safety. It creates Patient Safety Organizations (PSOs) to collect, aggregate, and analyze confidential information reported by health care providers. Currently, patient safety improvement efforts are hampered by the fear of discovery of peer deliberations, resulting in under-reporting of events and an inability to aggregate sufficient patient safety event data for analysis. By analyzing patient safety event information, PSOs will be able to identify patterns of failures and propose measures to eliminate patient safety risks and hazards.

Organizations Related to Medical Law

  • American Health Lawyers Association

    The American Health Lawyers Association is the nation's largest, nonpartisan, 501(c)(3) educational organization devoted to legal issues in the healthcare field with more than 10,000 members.

  • American Medical Association (AMA)

    Since 1847 the American Medical Association (AMA) has had one mission: to promote the art and science of medicine and the betterment of public health. Today, the core strategy used to carry out this mission is our concerted effort to help doctors help patients. We do this by uniting physicians nationwide to work on the most important professional and public health issues.

  • American Society of Law, Medicine and Ethics

    With roots extending back to 1911, ASLME is a nonprofit educational organization. Our mission is to provide high-quality scholarship, debate, and critical thought for professionals at the intersection of law, medicine, and ethics. Our members come together to examine big health questions with far-reaching social ramifications . like genetic testing and research, medical record privacy, end-of-life decisions, and the dynamics of informed consent.

  • American Telemedicine Association

    elemedicine is changing the world and ATA is the world of telemedicine. The American Telemedicine Association is the leading international resource and advocate promoting the use of advanced remote medical technologies. ATA and its diverse membership, works to fully integrate telemedicine into transformed healthcare systems to improve quality, equity and affordability of healthcare throughout the world.

  • Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC)

    The AAMC serves and leads the academic medicine community to improve the health of all. The AAMC represents all 133 accredited U.S. and 17 accredited Canadian medical schools; approximately 400 major teaching hospitals and health systems, including 62 Department of Veterans Affairs medical centers; and nearly 90 academic and scientific societies. Through these institutions and organizations, the AAMC represents 125,000 faculty members, 75,000 medical students, and 106,000 resident physicians.

  • Center for Disease Control

    CDC′s Mission is to collaborate to create the expertise, information, and tools that people and communities need to protect their health – through health promotion, prevention of disease, injury and disability, and preparedness for new health threats.

  • Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)

    The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is the United States government’s principal agency for protecting the health of all Americans and providing essential human services, especially for those who are least able to help themselves. HHS represents almost a quarter of all federal outlays, and it administers more grant dollars than all other federal agencies combined. HHS’ Medicare program is the nation’s largest health insurer, handling more than 1 billion claims per year. Medicare and Medicaid together provide health care insurance for one in four Americans.

  • National Association of Medical Examiners (NAME)

    The National Association of Medical Examiners (NAME) is the national professional organization of physician medical examiners, medical death investigators and death investigation system administrators who perform the official duties of the medicolegal investigation of deaths of public interest in the United States.

  • National Institutes of Health (NIH)

    The National Institutes of Health (NIH), a part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is the nation’s medical research agency—making important medical discoveries that improve health and save lives.

  • World Association for Medical Law (WAML)

    The World Association for Medical Law (WAML) was established in 1967, and conducted its first formal gathering in 1970. The purpose of the WAML is to encourage the study and discussion of health law, legal medicine and ethics, for the benefit of society and the advancement of human rights. The aim of the WAML is to promote the study of the consequences in jurisprudence, legislation and ethics of developments in medicine, health care and related sciences.

  • World Health Organization

    WHO is the directing and coordinating authority for health within the United Nations system. It is responsible for providing leadership on global health matters, shaping the health research agenda, setting norms and standards, articulating evidence-based policy options, providing technical support to countries and monitoring and assessing health trends.

Publications Related to Medical Law

  • Med Worm

    MedWorm is a medical RSS feed provider as well as a search engine built on data collected from RSS feeds. RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication and it is a technology used to simply publish and gather details of the very latest information on the internet. MedWorm collects updates from over 6000 authoritative data sources (growing each day) via RSS feeds. From the data collected, MedWorm provides new outgoing RSS feeds on various medical categories that you can subscribe to, via the free MedWorm online service, or another RSS reader of your choice, such as Bloglines, Newsgator, Google Reader or FeedDemon.

  • Medical Law Review

    The Medical Law Review is established as an authoritative source of reference for academics, lawyers, legal and medical practitioners, law students, and anyone interested in healthcare and the law. The Review presents articles of international interest which provide thorough analyses and comment on the wide range of topical issues that are fundamental to this expanding area of law. In addition, commentary sections provide in depth explorations of topical aspects in the field.

  • Yale Journal of Medicine and Law

    The Yale Journal of Medicine and Law is Yale’s premier publication, synthesizing these highly interconnected fields into a singular discipline. Since its inception in 2003 the Journal has been at the forefront of issues including healthcare policy, bioethics, healthcare economics, biomedical research, and global healthcare. We have featured interviews with prominent figures including US Senators, Directors of organizations such as the CDC and NIH, and the US Surgeon General.

Articles on Related to Medical Law

  • What Are the Risks Involved with Medical Tourism?
    Medical tourism occurs when a person from one country researches and travels to another for healthcare procedures that are usually cheaper or higher quality than the home nation. However, there are certain risks involved depending on the country and procedure sought such as injury or illness from recovery times.
  • Surgery Abroad: Legal Uncertainty When Things Go Wrong
    Traveling to another country is fraught with dangers and could lead to illness, healthcare complications and injury through botched surgical procedures. Before initiating the travel to receive such surgery or treatment, it is important to consult with a legal representative to determine if there are other concerns or specific uncertainty that may reach a resolution through a lawyer.
  • Dental Malpractice Lawsuit: Elements to Establish
    The four elements of any malpractice suit have a connection to dental malpractice lawsuits as well, and they must exist for the claim to have any chance of success. For a patient that has suffered an injury or complication through a dental visit, it is important to seek professional legal advice before attempting to pursue compensation.
  • What Are the Common Countries that Engage in Medical Tourism?
    The top ten countries that engage in medical tourism around the world may increase or decrease the need for malpractice and compensation claims based on the amount of damage caused and injury suffered. Knowing the laws of these nations is best so that any legal action may progress to the courts of the country where the patient resides.
  • Overview of a Dental Malpractice Lawsuit
    There are numerous issues that could occur when a person visits the dentist, but it is usually instances of negligence that leads to a dental malpractice lawsuit. For those injured during these visits, it is important to prove the four elements of a claim and seek as much compensation as possible so that recovery may resolve the matter entirely.
  • How to Enforce a Court Order Against a Foreign Medical Provider?
    It is when medical tourism and treatment in other countries causes injury that the patient may need to try to have a court enforce an order or judgment upon a foreign medical provider or physician. Before this is even possible, it is imperative that the person involves knows the foreign laws that affect the case and how they work into the court system.
  • Common Questions About Medical Malpractice in Kansas City, Missouri
    Medical malpractice cases aren't all that uncommon, however they can be very complicated. You may believe you have a case, but do you - and how do you know? As a trusted Kansas City personal injury attorney I've included some information and commonly asked questions below to help you determine whether you have a case.
  • Link between Antibiotics and Dental Standard of Care
    To treat various issues inside the mouth as well as to prevent the possible infections that occur, a dentist may prescribe antibiotics. This is considered a standard of care in usual circumstances, but there are other methods used that prevent problems that are more often put to use which may manage and intervene before antibiotics become the best option.
  • The Definition of Medical Tourism
    The travel of a person from the United States to another area of the world for a medical procedure that is less costly or may provide better benefits than found in the American states is medical tourism. The act itself is not illegal, but the travel and healthcare obtained could lead to complications and several issues outside and inside the country.
  • Problems with Getting Fertility Treatment Overseas
    Many couples are unable to conceive and may seek medical help or alternative options overseas. However, there are various problems to consider.
  • All Health Care and Social Law Articles

    Articles written by attorneys and experts worldwide discussing legal aspects related to Health Care and Social including: defective drugs, failure to diagnose, informed consent, medical law, medical malpractice, medication errors, pharmaceutical law, social security, social services law, surgical errors.

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