LAWGENRL 432 - Health Care Law

Credit points: 15 points
Offered: First Semester
Contact hours: Lectures - 3 hours per week
Course Coordinator: Joanna Manning and Ron Paterson
Prerequisites: LAW 211, 231
Restriction: LAW 427

Course description

An introduction to the legal and ethical issues related to health care delivery including: the purchase and provision of health services, the relationship between health providers and consumers, professional accountability, codes of rights, legal and ethical issues at the start and end of life, and biomedical research.

Course overview

Health Care Law has grown into a discrete area of specialist study in approximately the last thirty years. Once dominated by medical negligence, it now encompasses the study of the principles of law that govern medical practice, the health professional-patient relationship, and the delivery of health care services.

The course commences with an introduction to the groundbreaking “unfortunate experiment” at National Women’s Hospital which commenced in 1966 and the ensuing Cartwright Inquiry and Report, and to the Code of Health and Disability Services Consumers’ Rights and the Health and Disability Commissioner (HDC) complaints system in the health sector. This is followed by a consideration of: legal issues relating to rationing of health services; a study of the legal and ethical principles arising from assisted dying and withdrawal of life prolonging treatment and end-of-life treatment; the accountability of health practitioners via the HDC complaint system (in greater depth), professional discipline in the Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal, civil proceedings before the Human Rights Review Tribunal, and manslaughter prosecutions in the criminal law. ACC coverage of ‘treatment injury’ in promoting patient safety is briefly considered. Transparency of information in the health sector is also examined. The key concepts of competence to consent to medical treatment, and a patient’s right to be informed, at common law and pursuant to the Code of Rights are analysed, followed by the legal principles related to the treatment of adults unable to provide informed consent to treatment, as well as of young persons and children.


  • Case reading quiz (10%)
  • 1500 word take-home assignment (20%)
  • 2 hour open-book exam (70%)

Open-book means that you may, if you wish, bring into the exam and refer to any materials such as casebooks, textbooks and study notes.