Medical Law in the UK
While many people do not naturally make the association between the worlds of law and health, the two intertwine perfectly in the UK. From the rights you receive when under the care of a medical team in hospital, to public health and safety, there are laws everywhere designed to protect your health.
The Law and Your Health
There are laws and charters in place across the UK that are designed to make sure your rights and health interests are protected in the course of medical care. These laws ensure your privacy remains protected, that your consent is obtained before treatment, and that medical staff cannot carry out procedures without due care. As a result, medical staff can be held responsible in both criminal and civil courts if they break the law.
Legal Requirements of Health and Safety
While health and safety laws may seem burdensome, they actually exist to ensure you remain safe in a variety of places. Health and safety in the workplace can protect you from injury; from asbestos free environments, to fire exits, these laws help you remain safe at work. Similarly, health and safety in an academic environment helps children remain safe at all times; such as having a playground supervisor. Health and safety also exists in a variety of public venues. The aim of health and safety law is not to remove all risks; instead, legislators and governing bodies want to minimise the most dangerous ones that are out there.
Medical Law and Ethics
The way society views ethics affects medical laws and how they are implemented. As society's moral values change, so does legislation. For example; when it became widely accepted that abortions were necessary for saving women's lives, the 1967 abortion act was introduced. Similar ethical changes are consistently changing the way medical law is implemented. British society consistently sees challenges to the courts over euthanasia, which was unheard of a few decades ago. As a result, it is possible to work in medical law and ethics either as a professional, researcher, policy maker, or academic.
Legal Health Checks for Businesses
In the world of business, some health checks are legally required. At the same time there are also laws in place to ensure that health checks are carried out purposefully and liberally. In workplaces that are concerned with caring for others, chemicals, and heavy lifting, occupational health checks are required. These checks ensure that you are fit for work prior to your employment beginning. Similarly some workplaces may require you to undergo periodical health screening; for example, if you work in a laboratory, you may be monitored for chemical burns. During any job application process and your employment, there are laws in place to ensure you are not checked too often. This ensures you retain privacy, while remaining safe.
Across the UK, solicitors and barristers are available to provide legal advice that is relevant to medical matters. In England and Wales, these professionals will be members of the law society or the English and Welsh bar. In Scotland, they are members of the Scottish law society. In Northern Ireland, the Northern Ireland law society regulates these individuals. Each person who practices in the field of medical law will usually hold an undergraduate degree, a postgraduate qualification, and two years training under somebody who is already qualified. There are alternative routes into medical lawyer careers, but these are lengthier than the academic route.
Public Health Law
Public health laws are in place to make sure the British nation remains healthy and safe. The laws that exist extend from vaccination programs available to all citizens, to manufacturing and business regulations that reduce the number of diseases and accidents people encounter on a daily basis. For example, public health law sets the hygiene standards that are expected from kitchens in restaurants; as a result, less people encounter potentially fatal diseases than they would if the regulations were not in place. Public health law also helps social workers carry out their work; for example, public health plays a role in child nutrition. If nutritional needs are not met, social services can intervene; while this may only apply to severe cases, it is public health law that ensures children are adequately nourished. Breaches of public health law can lead to criminal and civil prosecutions.
Medical Legal Advice
Medical legal advice can be obtained from several sources. For those who are seeking assistance with negligence cases, approaching a solicitor is the best way to ensure you access information and guidance that will help you resolve your complaints with the best outcomes available. However, solicitors are not the only individuals who can provide medical legal advice. Patient support groups and charities are also available to assist those who have not been treated well while receiving medical care.