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Legal Issues in Health Care

Health care providers must be mindful of their legal obligations, such as in regards to admission, treatment and health records, in order to respond appropriately to clients’ rights and empower them to take control over their health care decisions. There are a wide range of regulatory strategies that can be used to ensure society’s health and safety. The aim is to use incentives before sanctions. When those being regulated do not respond accordingly, serious legal implications can be invoked.

There are five main categories of strategies used:

  1. Voluntarism: an individual organization complies voluntarily without coercion.
  2. Economic instruments: supplying funding or incentives for health care providers
  3. Self-regulation: for example, a group regulates the behaviour of its members through a code of practice
  4. Command and control mechanisms: involves enforcement by the government
  5. Meta-regulation: involves an external regulatory body that ensures that health care providers implement safety, quality practices and programs

Two basic healthcare torts exist in the United States. Torts are wrongdoings that happen to individuals regardless of whether there is a contract in place. The first tort is negligence, which is an unintentional act, or lack of an act, which could harm the health of a patient. For example, if a provider doesn’t give appropriate care and a patient’s health is harmed. The second tort is an intentional tort, such as assault, battery and invasion of privacy (for example, violation of a patient’s health records). 


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