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

  • Texas Supreme Court Rules on Hospital Pricing Transparency
    A case recently decided by the Texas Supreme Court will change the way the hospital and other healthcare providers charge uninsured patients for services, according to the Texas Tribune.
  • Know Your State's Laws about Medical and Hospital Malpractice When Considering Filing a Claim
    If you have been a victim of medical malpractice, the compensation you receive may depend on where you live.
  • Social Worker As an Expert Witness
    Social workers have a vital role as expert witnesses in certain types of cases and using such professionals in the courtroom or behind the scenes is essential. The claims of domestic violence, child abuse, sexual assault or battery and issues with custody or guardianship are all important subjects that a social worker may become necessary.
  • Pretrial Role of Expert Witness Testimony
    The expert witness has several duties to perform before he or she will testify in the courtroom before a jury or a judge, and some of these duties involve the testimony review before the courtroom event. Some experts may need to create a report that the judge or opposing legal counsel will have access to before the trial starts.
  • Marijuana and the Americans with Disabilities Act
    There is a great need for medical marijuana use for some individuals in the country that face disabilities so that the pain and other symptoms from conditions are maintainable. Understanding the intersection between these two issues is important for the citizens in the states that provide little help with these laws and other states that protect the use of health conditions or physical disability.
  • Role of Expert Witness in Dental Malpractice Cases
    Dental malpractice cases often involve negligence. This factor is difficult to prove in a lawsuit without the use of an expert witness or other corroborating evidence to point to the defendant as responsible for the injury. With the help of a professional in the claim against the dentist, it is possible to show the judge or jury that the patient has an entitlement of compensation for the incident.
  • Medical Malpractice 101
    Doctors are a group of the most respected professionals in the United States and the world. It’s a position they deserve; the years of education and training they must go through are intense and grueling. But despite the accolades they receive -- or perhaps because of them -- it’s easy to forget that doctors and other medical professionals – are human. And humans make mistakes.
  • Second Bellwether Trial Scheduled for Cook IVC Filter Multi-District Litigation
    The victims are alleging that they suffered serious injuries from defective Cook IVC filters.
  • What Is a Defective Medical Device?
    Defective medical devices cause injuries to thousands each year depending on what type of machine or equipment, and these issues often create claims through lawsuits to acquire compensation for the injuries. Knowing what device the person receives for treatment could prevent possible claims against the manufacturer or the hospital.
  • New EU Rules for Medical Devices
    The new European Union rules in place for medical devices could prevent possible claims against the company, manufacturer or hospital that uses the machine for treatment methods for the patients. Implementation in these countries in the EU began in late May of 2017, and these new directives replace any existing regulations in use.
  • 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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