The medical profession and its practitioners are governed by all sorts of laws including contract laws, criminal laws, tort laws and civil laws. However, these types of laws relate and affect the professionals at different magnitudes and levels. Thus, some tend to be more influential in determining the medical professional’s conduct to a larger extent than others (Miller, 2006). This paper shall review these laws and how they affect the medical practitioners practice and conduct, whilst; highlighting which ones are more influential in the profession.
Perhaps it would be better to start off with the category that least affects the profession-contract laws. Medical professionals are under no obligations to sign contracts with any of their patients and if this ever happens it is on a rare basis. However, the professionals may hold other contractual agreements with other parties such as medical insurance firms supposed to reimburse them or contracts signed between the professionals and their employees (Pozgar, 2007).
Therefore, since these contracts are not many with regard to the number of people they deal with, then we may regard contract laws as the laws with least effect on professionals. However, these may affect their practice if they breach the contracts between them and their employees by failing to work appropriately or those held between them and the insurance firms by for example making false claims (Pozgar, 2007).On the other hand, criminal laws are laws that define the type of conducts that are prohibited by the state
This may be because it causes, harm, threat or danger to the welfare and safety of the public. These laws are state enforced and they are rarely seen in the American health landscape, because most doctors clearly understand them and keep off the offenses that would lead to them such as procuring abortion under illegal terms or administering lethal injections (Pozgar, 2007). Civil law on their other hand encompasses the legal definitions that define inter-human relationships. Cases from criminal laws are rare and there are a few situations when the state steps in to enforce these on the medical practitioners.
The same applies to civil laws, because medical professionals barely have any other relations with the patients they treat apart from the client-practitioner relationship (Miller, 2006). These laws are defined by two principles- Actus reus and Mens rea. The first principle defines guilty acts done whilst the offender knows that the act is illegal, and it threatens to or actually harms another person. Rarely do doctors engage in criminal acts against their patients such as rape, physical violence and murder.
It may however, relate more to medical professionals whenever they fail to take some actions that they are supposed to take; such as failing to treat a patient. If the patient dies out of such a failure the act of omission of a required action may lead to crimes that can be judged under criminal law. The second principle defines the commission of acts defined as illegal under the consideration of the intentions that led to the action-here intention is clearly separated from motive.
Finally, I review tort laws, which happen to be the body of laws that directly and mostly affect and influence medical practice among medical practitioners. Tort laws constitutes of a body of obligations, rights and remedial steps that can be used in civil proceedings in the court to offer relief to people that may have suffered at the hands of another person that was not supposed to harm them (Micchaud & Hutton, 2006). Re-reading this statement should perhaps hint to you why these are the laws that most affect medical practitioners. The tort laws offer relief to people that suffers or get harmed by acts of a wrongful nature committed by other people.
In most cases we hear of cases where patients have suffered at the hand of practitioners due to neglect or poor practice standards which finally cause harm and lead to suits where the patients seek compensation for the harm committed against them. These are by far the largest number of cases that medical practitioners face. The patients that suffer harm because of tortuous acts become the plaintiffs and the practitioners charged with inflicting the harm become the defendants. In order for such suits to hold the plaintiff has to prove that defendant had the legal obligation to act or behave in a particular way or manner which he did not adhere to, and thus causing harm.
This part of tort laws is reminiscent of the code of ethics at the work place as well as appropriate conduct observance which if not followed may lead to legal consequences (Micchaud & Hutton, 2006). The second requirement is for the plaintiff to show that the defendant acted against the manner in which s/he is expected to have done at the time the act was committed. Finally, there should be proof of sustaining harm from the tortuous act. Unlike criminal law enforced by the state, tortuous offenses are brought up by citizens and unlike contract laws they are based on simpler agreements between both sides about the suit filed (Micchaud & Hutton, 2006).
These are the most common cases that occur in the medical-legal landscape in America. These laws seek to compensate the harmed person, prevent tortuous harmful acts against others whether intended or not by eliciting more care, shift costs of harm to the tortfeasor and finally vindicate interests and rights that are emasculated or compromised. In the medical practice they are more of concerned with maintaining the required code of ethics and conduct which does not endanger the life of the patients.
Micchaud, L.G. and Hutton, B. M. (2006),. Medical tort law: The emergence of a specialty standard of care, retrieved on 24th March, 2011 from http://heinonline.org/HOL/ViewImageLocal?handle=hein.journals/tlj16&div=38&collection=journals&method=preview&ext=.png&size=3
Miller, D. R. (2006),.Problems in health care law, 9th edition, Jones & Bartlett Learning
Pozgar, D. G. (2007),.Legal aspects of health care administration, 10th edition, Jones & Bartlett Learning