Why Is Law Important in Health and Social Care

Healthcare lawyers often represent clients in the healthcare sector in general corporate matters, including corporate restructuring, capital financing, benefits, tax and antitrust matters, and general contract negotiations. In addition, health care advocates often advise on physician recruitment, acquisition of physician practices, and issues of relations with medical staff. Healthcare lawyers also provide advice on fraud, abuse and payment issues in Medicare and Medicaid, HMO and insurance regulation, telemedicine, and health care reform. Finally, health care advocates often address risk management, informed consent, confidentiality, and bioethical issues, including end-of-life decision-making, assisted human reproduction, and health care decision-making. There is an urgent need to expand legal education and partnerships between the legal, medical, commercial and other sectors to support resilient and sustainable health systems. Civil society networks, including civil and political rights defenders, must be involved to ensure a robust public debate on the allocation of resources to health. Long-term capacity-building plans are needed, as is urgent short-term assistance. Enabling legal frameworks and public health capacities must be recognized as building blocks of African health systems. The ethical conundrum is that when detainees protest, their conscientious objection, such as hunger strikes or refusal to comply with custody rules, may be their only alternative. The dilemma facing correctional clinicians is to protect the health and life of the patient while appreciating their efforts to change their system. In these situations, law enforcement agencies must educate and communicate with their patients and care workers to mitigate conflict and improve clinical outcomes. Many of these health administrators earn a graduate degree, such as an MBA, before joining a healthcare organization. For those already working, an online MBA program may be the right option.

The flexibility of online courses allows these professionals to immediately apply what they have learned in the program and help eliminate fraud and other unethical practices from the healthcare industry. The Public Health Law Program (PHLP) is administered by CDC`s Office for State, Tribal, Local and Territorial Support (OSTLTS). PHLP develops law-related tools and provides legal advice to public health practitioners and policy makers in state, tribal, local and territorial (STLT) jurisdictions. The law can be used to design and maintain social conditions that can have terrible physical, mental and emotional effects on individuals and populations. An obvious example in this category is the constitutional doctrine of „separate but equal” that allowed racial segregation in housing, health care, education, employment, transportation, etc. Health legislation may cover specific areas of healthcare, such as paediatric care or surgery. It can also focus on broader aspects of healthcare and clinical operations, such as: what type of professional can prescribe medications or how to protect electronic health records (EHRs). Legislation may also cover administrative elements of healthcare, such as health insurance and costs for patients.

Public health laws have generally followed public health crises. During the Black Death in the mid-fourteenth century, European cities imposed a series of quarantine controls, arguably the first discernible public health laws. One of them was Venice, whose Great Council isolated the newcomers for a period of 40 days (supposedly chosen by analogy with Christ`s sufferings in the desert; Zeigler, 1997: 39). Trade and movement around the world led to a number of more general quarantine laws, some of which were extraordinarily harsh. English laws introduced in the eighteenth century allowed people who violated quarantine to be hanged and their ships sunk (Reynolds, 1995:161). However, the threat of epidemics (for which quarantine controls were the logical answer) was compounded by another set of public health threats in the nineteenth century, when the inhabitants of emerging cities (the new populations of a rapidly industrializing world) fell victim to chronic diseases caused by poverty, overcrowding, and an unhealthy environment. Although these problems were neither new nor resolved at the time, there was a period of health care reform in the mid-nineteenth century, which was expressed in legislation. From this time emerged our first recognizable modern health laws, whose basic structure has been preserved in many countries to this day. England was at the centre of these laws. In the 1840s, it experienced significant urban growth and medical and social reformers eager to report on and deal with chronic diseases and premature death. Public health law consists of legislative (passed by parliament) and judicial (court judgment) declarations of rules or standards that govern health interventions or health behaviours. By its very nature, the law is in the public domain.

While many public policies contribute to health and health equity, improving the health of populations is not the only goal of societies and their governments.

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