Legal Relationships
In medical care, the basic legal relationships are between medical care practitioners and patients, between individual medical care practitioners, between individual professionals and their employers or contractors, and between medical care practitioners and the state. Some legal rules apply equally to all relationships; others depend on the particulars of the relationship. The rules that apply equally to all persons—business law, constitutional rights, criminal law, and family law—define the civic role of citizens of society, as well as the specific roles of medical care practitioners.
Medical care delivery involves several types of legal relationships. While most of these relationships can involve any licensed medical care practitioners, the legal rules that govern them are often dependent on the practitioner’s license and specific training, with different rules for physicians and midlevel practitioners, or between medical specialties. For example, in many circumstances the law gives patients broader rights of privacy in their records of psychiatric care than in general medical care records. Medical care practitioners must be aware of the general rules on legal relationships and which rules differ, based on the status of the specific practitioner. The first step is understanding the general classes of legal relationships that all medical care practitioners share.