Medical Law and Ethics in the US – Overview
Medical law is the set of laws and regulations that govern medical professionals and their patient’s rights and duties. The primary goal of medical law is confidentiality, negligence, and other torts relating to medical treatment, particularly medical malpractice, as well as criminal law and ethics.
Confidentiality According to Us Medical Law and Ethics
Medical doctors and mental healthcare professionals had traditionally provided confidentiality to their patients, dating back all the way to when the English Common Law was followed.
However, this tradition was codified in the past few years so that any topic of conversation between a patient and their doctor/mental healthcare provider in the course of diagnosis or treatment is confidential and privileged unless the individual patient expresses an imminent intention to harm themself or others.
This confidentiality has been reinforced and expanded with the framing of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of HIPAA. This federal law is designed to handle different issues relating to our culture’s increasingly mobile and connected nature.
This has helped to create several legal safeguards to protect the confidentiality of the patient’s medical and mental health records.
HIPAA created several new and formal requirements about disclosures, ways in which information can be shared, and keeping patient information confidential. Those found in violation of the Act can face significant liability.
Negligence and Torts
Medical professionals certified, trained and engaged in diagnosing and treating patients are held to a higher standard than a layman who renders aid. Medical malpractice is one of the main areas of focus of medical law.
It relates to the liability of a medical professional for negligence in the diagnosis or treatment of a patient causing injury or death.
However, other torts also overlap medical law. For instance, a healthcare provider may defame a patient if they wrongfully disclose false information about the patient’s health. Apart from this, there could be an instance when a medical professional may perform a medical procedure on someone who had declined the said treatment, mostly for religious reasons.
Besides this, there are other torts as well. So, if you are a medical professional concerned about restricting your exposure, you should immediately contact an attorney specializing in medical malpractice lawsuits.
These legal professionals can review your practice and advise you on reducing the liability margin to the lowest.
Crime & Ethics
Criminal law and ethics have increasingly expanded in the medical malpractice law of the United States in the past few years. The rise of “pill mills” (clinics where doctors prescribe medication that is not needed in the prescribed quantity) has raised serious issues about the role of medical professionals in the trafficking of controlled substances.
This is concerning from a criminal and ethical point of view. Apart from this, there have been famous incidences of euthanasia of terminally ill patients and sexual assaults against anesthetized patients.
AMA Code of Medical Ethics
There are three parts to the American Medical Association’s (AMA) Code of Medical Ethics:
1. Medical Ethics Principles
2. The Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs’ Ethical Opinions
3. Reports of the Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs
Principles of Medical Ethics
This document only had ten concise sections meant to express the fundamental ideas of the previous document clearly and concisely. In 2001, two new principles were added to the Principles of Medical Ethics.
One emphasizes that a doctor must prioritize their duty to the patient, while the other claims that medical professionals should support access to medical facilities for everyone.
Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs Ethical OpinionsThe elements of ethical behavior are intended to be addressed broadly by the Principles of Medical Ethics.
The ethical opinions that CEJA issues apply principles to particular problems and fields of professional endeavor. The sections below are how the opinions are arranged:
2. Opinions on Social Policy Issues
3. Opinions on Interprofessional Relations
4. Opinions on Hospital Relations
5. Opinions on Confidentiality, Advertising, and Communications Media Relations
6. Opinions on fees
7. Opinions on Physician Records
8. Opinions on Practice Matters
9. Opinions on Professional Rights and Responsibilities
10. Opinions on the Patient-Physician Relationship
Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs Reports
The CEJA’s reports discuss and suggest ethical guidelines for the particular problem they are addressing.
They are initiated for the following situations:
- When current ethical opinions do not adequately address fresh concerns or issues.
- It is unclear how current ethical rules should be applied to some new circumstances.
- When the profession questions the efficacy of existing policy
- When new changes in the environment of practice need revisiting previous opinions.
Medical law and ethics in the US are significantly more diverse, influential and expansive.
It dictates rules and regulations regarding professional conduct from healthcare providers, nurses, pharmacists, and everyone involved in the diagnosis, treatment or aftercare of patients in a medical setting, such as a clinic, hospital or any other healthcare provider.