Law and medicine
Medicine in Legal and Ethical Debates (Magill’s Medical Guide, Sixth Edition)
Medicine as it relates to law is referred to as forensic medicine. Forensic medicine plays a part in three basic areas of the law. The first two involve the practical application of medicine in civil law and in criminal law. The third area involves the use of medical science to help in defining philosophical or ethical issues, such as when life begins and ends. Ethics in medicine, also called bioethics, refers to a set of moral standards and a code for behavior that govern people’s interactions with one another and with society. Bioethics deals with moral issues and problems that have arisen as a result of modern medicine and research. Bioethical principles focus on autonomy (self-determination), beneficence (doing good), nonmaleficence (avoiding evil), and justice (the fair distribution of scarce resources).
In a civil case, a private party, the plaintiff, files a complaint in court against another party, the defendant, requesting that a judge or a jury settle a dispute between the two parties. A party to a civil suit can be an individual, a corporation, an association, a government organization, or any other group. A civil suit differs from a criminal case in that neither party is claiming that a crime (such as theft, kidnapping, or murder) was committed and that someone should be put in jail. Instead, the plaintiff in a civil suit is asking that the defendant pay some amount of money to the...
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The Applications of Medical Testimony (Magill’s Medical Guide, Sixth Edition)
Medical experts in almost every field of medicine have played a part in civil cases, criminal cases, and controversies involving philosophical and ethical issues. Sometimes, the interaction between medicine and the law has spawned new medical or legal subspecialties. In fact, medical expert testimony has become a field and an occupation in itself, supporting an entire group of medical professionals to the exclusion of actual medical practice. This phenomenon has occurred in large part in response to the greater acceptance by the courts of medical expert testimony and the increased reliability of recent medical testing.
Personal injury cases afford a good example of all the different types of testimony that come into play in civil suits. A physical injury case, as the name suggests, is based on a physical (or mental) injury, as opposed to a purely financial injury, suffered by the plaintiff. A physical injury case may involve an automobile accident and its resulting injuries. In such a case, doctors who are experts in the field of muscle damage, neurology (for head and nerve injuries), orthopedic surgery, and countless other areas could be called as experts, depending on the extent of the injuries.
Another type of case, called a product liability case, will often use expert medical testimony. A product liability case is one in which a person has been injured by a specific product on the market and...
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Perspective and Prospects (Magill’s Medical Guide, Sixth Edition)
Medicine has always played some role in the outcome of court cases, but this relationship did not come into full flower until relatively recently. In the early twentieth century, courts placed strict limitations on the type and amount of medical testimony allowed into evidence. Often, certain types of medical evidence were not admissible because the science was not deemed reliable—there was too much room for error. The polygraph (lie detector), for example, could not be relied upon to reveal consistently whether a person was telling the truth, since it simply measured galvanic skin response, respiration rate, and other factors that only tend to be correlated with the subject’s feelings of guilt. Most other evidence presented by medical experts concerned the likelihood of events or outcomes and therefore usually constituted opinion, rather than fact.
With the advent of new technologies in the later part of the twentieth century, medical science began to present “hard” (more precise) data that became more frequently accepted by the courts as reliable and relevant evidence. Even so, it took some time before medical scientists were able to present enough data to persuade the courts that the evidence of such methods as DNA “fingerprinting” was truly reliable. The acceptance of DNA testing, for example, was a long and hard-fought battle among legions of medical experts on both sides of the issue. Finally, DNA...
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For Further Information: (Magill’s Medical Guide, Sixth Edition)
Boumil, Marcia M., Clifford E. Elias, and Diane Bissonnette Moes. Medical Liability in a Nutshell. 2d ed. St. Paul, Minn.: Thomson/West, 2003. Succinctly discusses salient topics in medical liability: medical negligence, standard of care, intentional torts, informed consent and the right to refuse treatment, the duty of disclosure, causation and damages, and various defenses to liability.
Fremgen, Bonnie F. Medical Law and Ethics. 2d ed. Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Pearson/Prentice Hall, 2006. Essential legal and ethical principles for the health care provider. Contains case studies and legal citations.
Furrow, Barry R., et al. Health Law: Cases, Materials, and Problems. 6th ed. St. Paul, Minn.: Thomson/West, 2008. Covers a range of issues related to health and the law, including cost control, prospective payment, health care antitrust, and federal and state regulation of health care delivery; legal and ethical issues created by reproductive technology and by the dilemmas of death and dying; and the core topics of professional liability and the physician-patient relationship.
Garner, Bryan A., ed. Black’s Law Dictionary. 9th ed. St. Paul, Minn.: Thomson/West, 2008. The fundamental legal dictionary, containing definitions and examples of how terms have been interpreted by courts.
James, Stuart H., and Jon J. Nordby, eds. Forensic Science: An Introduction to...
(The entire section is 461 words.)