Medical law governs both medical care practitioners, as well as patients that are under their care. It helps to protect both the responsibilities and rights of both of these parties. Although there are a wide variety of subjects that are covered under the umbrella of medical law, there are essentially three main categories or branches of medical law:
- Criminal Law
- Medical Negligence
These three branches of medical law help to both protect a medical practitioner if he or she is being accused of breaching medical laws even though they are innocent, and also to help bring legal action against those practitioners who acted unlawfully toward a patient under his or her care.
Under medical confidentiality law, health care practitioners are forbidden to disclose any sensitive or private medical information about a patient in his or her care to other people. Not only is it ethically moral to maintain a level of confidence pertaining to medical information about a patient, but it is also legally required. Doctors and other health care practitioners who reveal medical information about a patient without their consent are in breach of medical law.
There are certain exceptions to this confidentiality law, including the following:
- Getting permission from the patient to divulge the medical information
- Transferring medical records to another medical facility
- Divulging pertinent medical information in order to prevent injury or fatality
There are many branches of confidentiality laws that exist, such as legal confidentiality between a lawyer and their client, and confidentiality between a business owner and its employees. Medical confidentiality is one of the most familiar and well-known type of legal confidentiality that exists under the law. Although some types of legal confidentiality must be established and agreed upon through a binding contract or agreement, medical confidentiality requires no such written agreement. Rather, it is assumed that any information that becomes privy to a doctor or other health care practitioner about a patient will be kept in the strictest confidentiality.
Most health care professionals consider medical confidentiality to be one of the most important aspects of their profession. It is an aspect of their job that most of these professionals hold in the highest regard, and as one of moral and ethical obligation. Facilitating full honesty and openness between a patient and their doctor is essential to help the doctor provide the best care for the patient.
The section of medical law that covers criminal law involves dealing with health care professionals that may be guilty of a criminal act against a patient. For example, doctor’s who perform a medical procedure without a patient’s consent, or against their will, are considered under law to be criminally liable.
The criminal branch of medical law deals with the criminal code, which means that any medical practitioner that has committed a criminal offense in the medical sense can be punished under the law as a criminal. This includes being subject to court proceedings where punishment can include jail time. If a prosecution team can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a doctor or nurse committed a medical crime against a patient or anyone under their medical care, they can be held liable and punished as a criminal under US law.
Medical negligence is also referred to as medical malpractice, and involves the negligent acts of a doctor or nurse that cause injury or death to a patient under their care. This can also include an omission by the medical practitioner or a medical facility that causes harm to a patient. Patients who are subject to such medical negligence or malpractice have recourse under the law to take legal action against the health care practitioner or medical facility. These types of cases are generally part of the personal injury law branch of medical law.
People who are in need of medical care have the right to be given adequate medical care by a health care professional or a medical facility. When these standards are not met, medical negligence has taken place. This can happen as a result of an error or irresponsible act made by the health care practitioner.
Whether the medical professional displayed incompetent medical skills or poor patient care is the cause of injury or death to the patient, it all still constitutes medical negligence. Anyone who is medically responsible for the care of a patient can be held liable under the law for medical negligence. Medical facilities and hospitals can also be held liable in these situations, and can also be charged under the law.
Medical law is a caveat that encompasses the protection of both patients and medical professionals. Patients are protected under medical law against medical professionals who cause some form of harm, injury or death to a patient, as well as breaching a level of confidentiality. Medical law also protects medical professionals who have acted responsibly when caring for a patient, despite being wrongly accused by a patient for medical malpractice or other breach of the law.