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Branch of law dealing with various aspects of health care. Health law was traditionally known as legal medicine or forensic medicine and included primarily forensic pathology and forensic psychiatry, in which pathologists were asked to determine and testify to the cause of death in cases of suspected homicide or to aspects of various injuries involving crimes such as assault and rape. Today health law is applied not only to medicine but also to health care in general. Health law is especially important in cases with complicated ethical implicationsfor example, in the case of comatose patients who are kept alive by mechanical ventilation, when physicians and families are forced to decide whether or not it is more or less ethical to remove the ventilator. Other important aspects of health law include patients' rights and medical malpractice.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on health law, visit Britannica.com.
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