Skeleton of legal corpus

Understanding Medical Law
February 9, 2007

Understanding Medical Law by Brendan Greene is an introductory textbook aimed at law students who choose a medical law option, and also at medical and nursing students. It includes "some consideration of medical ethics", although this is rather too brief to provide a thorough analysis of ethical theories and, indeed, it would be too much to ask of a short book.

The standard medical law topics are covered, including consent, medical negligence and confidentiality and, oddly, "infertility" rather than "medically assisted reproduction". The reader is instantly drawn into the subject through succinct case summaries, which are particularly useful for non-lawyers, and the topics are neatly outlined. Students will appreciate the brevity of the text.

The law is stated as of January 1, 2005, and it is rather surprising that this book was published just when the Mental Capacity Act 2005 received Royal Assent. This addresses the law concerning treatment of patients lacking capacity, an important area for medical practice. As a result, parts of this book are already out of date, and the reader would therefore not realise, for example, that the Act sets out a statutory framework for advance decision-making.

Although its brevity may be welcomed, the interesting and challenging dilemmas are cursorily considered. Discussing circumcision for non-therapeutic reasons, Greene refers to the Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003 but then simply states that "male circumcision remains legal". A frustrating theme of the book is the inadequacy of the legal and ethical analysis. The book also features a surprising number of grammatical lapses and minor misspellings.

Medical law is a popular option for undergraduate law students and a necessary part of training for healthcare professionals. There is a plethora of medical law and ethics textbooks to meet this demand, and in the past few years many new editions have been produced. This competitively priced book is an interesting introduction to medical law, but it is unlikely to be sufficient on its own for undergraduate healthcare law modules.

Carolyn Johnston is adviser on medical law and ethics, School of Medicine, King's College London, and senior lecturer, Kingston University.

Understanding Medical Law

Author - Brendan Greene
Publisher - Routledge-Cavendish
Pages - 233
Price - 15.00
ISBN - 1 85941 888 0

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