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.

Confidentiality

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.

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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 (what year were we started) 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 HG.org Related to Medical Law

  • When Patients Place Trust in Professionals, Accountability is Vital
    When you suffer from a medical condition in the United States, you are forced to place your trust in the hands of a vast network of doctors, nurses, pharmacists, drug makers, and medical device manufacturers. If you’re told that you have a heart condition, you might be able to seek a second opinion if you’re lucky enough to have the financial resources or health insurance, but you can’t double-check the diagnosis based on your own intuition or a quick web search.
  • Burnout among Doctors Can Have a Major Impact on Quality of Care
    When Dr. Dianne Shannon started practicing medicine, she wanted to help people. She was an internist working in outpatient clinics in Boston, and, while she enjoyed the opportunities she had to give aid to people in need, the demands of the job took their toll.
  • Cardiology Expert Witness and Why Lawyers May Need One
    When someone has been involved in medical malpractice with the heart, a cardiology expert witness is often necessary. These professionals have knowledge of what standard guidelines should be used when performing surgery, medical treatment and in prescribing medication. If the physician appointed to the patient did not follow standard procedure, he or she could be liable for damages to the victim of the incident.
  • Pain after Flu Shot? There’s a Government Program for That
    Pain after a flu shot could be a sign of Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS), a potentially-serious shoulder injury or another vaccine-related medical condition. Individuals diagnosed with injuries and illnesses following their flu vaccinations are entitled to no-fee legal representation under the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP).
  • Telemedicine Reform Bill Passed in Texas
    One of the bills that the Texas Legislature passed in the last regular session legalized the practice of telemedicine.
  • Caps to Non-Economic Damages Would Limit Patient Recourse
    The United States House of Representatives has recently voted on legislation that would limit the amount of non-economic damages patients could seek to just $250,000. The Protecting Access to Care Act (PACA) passed the House by a vote of 218 to 210. The vote was largely along party lines and the legislation now moves to the Senate where it is likely to pass by a slim margin.
  • Our In-Network Hospital Moved a Patient to an Out-of-Network Hospital for Emergency Surgery, What Do I Do?
    Medical insurance and stays at a hospital may become complicated when the patient is moved from one location to another. However, if the initial hospital changes from an in-network facility to an out-of-network place, this may affect insurance coverage rates and how much is owed on the final bill by the individual.
  • The Most Common Forms of Medical Errors
    We take many things for granted in our daily lives. This is especially true when we place our trust in professionals and rely on their expertise for our safety and wellbeing. For example, we count on professionals to repair our automobiles, build our homes and tend to our health. When we stop to think about this fact, it can leave us with a sense of vulnerability that can understandably make us very uncomfortable.
  • Patients File LivaNova Lawsuit in Pennsylvania
    More Hospitals Warn Patients About LivaNova Bacterial Infection.
  • Overview of License Defense for a Physician
    [P]rofessional discipline for a physician [involves] the process by which your medical license comes under attack and your defense of it.
  • 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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