Health care extends beyond the provision of medical services to the living. It also encompasses, but is not limited to, what can be done with your body after death; who has access to your confidential medical Information and what rights you have to call health care professionals to account for their conduct. This chapter explains some of your rights as a patient, regardless of the type of health care service you’re using, and the obligations of the professional providing that service.

Introduction to health and the law

The interaction between law and health is vast and complex.

The law regulates matters that would normally be considered health-related, such as in-vitro fertilisation, or the framework governing the operation of hospitals and community health centres.

However, it also deals with less obvious things, as diverse as standards for the re-use of waste water and the licensing of pest-control operators.

This chapter deals with the areas of health law about which questions commonly arise. These are:

  • information and consent;
  • access to medical records;
  • privacy and confidentiality (e.g. between health practitioners and their consumers);
  • blood transfusions and organ transplants; and
  • making a complaint.
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Health, wills and other legal issues affecting older people