Health Law Essay

Subject: Economics
Type: Informative Essay
Pages: 7
Word count: 2093
Topics: Consumerism, Criminal Justice, Health, Health Insurance
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Introduction

Apart from providing patients with the most appropriate health care solutions or providing the best patient care, healthcare professionals are increasingly required to respect the rights of patients in their medical facilities (Bell & Brookbanks, 1998). Within the context of human rights in the medical practice, there are various laws, codes and standards that regulate the practices of the healthcare professionals to ensure that patients are treated with respect and their rights are preserved (Godbold & McCallin, 2005). In New Zealand, patients are entitled under the constitution, the right to informed choice and consent, the right to reject treatment or medical procedure, and the right to accurate information and effective communication (Willis, 2014). This essay seeks to evaluate a scenario that entails breach to various regulations safeguarding the rights of patients in a healthcare environment.

Quiz 1: Legal Institutions and Process in Health Care

The case presented in this scenario reveals a number of legal breaches that the paramedic committed when he took a photo of an accident victim for emergency purposes and later shared it with a friend outside the clinical practice (Clarke & Oakley, 2007). According to the New Zealand medical standards and laws governing the privacy of consumers, the paramedic is answerable to the misconduct under the Human Rights Review Tribunal, the Health Practitioner’s Disciplinary Tribunal and the Privacy Commissioner (Baker, 2008). To begin with, the paramedic is culpable for breaching the consumer privacy standards established by the Office of the New Zealand Privacy Commissioner, which was established by the Privacy Act 1993. As stipulated in section 13 of the Privacy Act 1993, and based on the case scenario, the paramedic is answerable to charges of invading the privacy of the patient. The Office of the New Zealand Privacy Commissioner is the main government agency responsible for ensuring that people and organizations are upholding the privacy regulations. 

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The offended patient can seek assistance from the Office of the Privacy Commissioner, as it is the government agency tasked with the responsibility of overseeing breaches of privacies under the Public Register Privacy Principles (PRPPs) and the Information Privacy Principles (IPPs). The Privacy Commissioner holds professionals to accountability in case one has breached the six IPPs (Willis, 2014). The six IPPs include privacy related to gathering of individual’s information, use and/or exposition of personal information, security and storage of personal information, as well as retention of personal information, and accuracy of personal information (Willis, 2014). In the case of the professional misconduct witnessed in the behavior of the paramedic, issues of the collection, use and disclosure of personal information, collection of private data, and storage of personal information may arise.

The offended patient may also seek legal assistance from the Health Practitioner’s Disciplinary Tribunal (Baker, 2008). Established prior to the enactment of section 84 of the Health Practitioners Competence Assurance Act 2003, the tribunal is responsible for covering issues related to the professional misconducts committed on the patients or consumers within the realms of anesthetic technicians, the dispensing opticians, the optometrists, among others (Baker, 2008). Generally, the tribunal oversees misconduct cases conducted under the health care sector. The tribunal mostly listens and determines the disciplinary proceedings that have been brought against the health practitioners (Agnew & Jorgensen, 2012). The tribunal is made up of a panel of a chairperson, a deputy chairperson, a board composed of the laypersons and a number of health practitioners. The complainant (patient) can launch the complaint through the assistance of the Office of the Health and Disability Commissioner, which is situated in Auckland, New Zealand (Baker, 2008). A paramedic is a health professional recognized under the Health and Disability Commissioner Office as a medical officer.    

Quiz 2: Role of Civil and Criminal Law on Health Care Policy and Practice

Civil and Criminal law have varied responsibilities in the Constitution of New Zealand. Civil cases are not ultimately about lawbreaking (Keenan, Clery & Thomson, 2016). Civil cases normally include land disputes, business disputes, debt recovery disputes and employment, among others. Criminal law mostly deals with crime and involves judgment by punishing. Based on the case scenario, the patient can sue the health paramedic on various legal grounds involving the two laws. Under the Civil law, the Patient has the legal right to sue the paramedic for disclosing personal information on the grounds of negligence and invasion of privacy (Keenan, Clery & Thomson, 2016). The paramedic may be answerable to the charges on invasion of privacy, as medical information of the patients must be handled with high levels of respect for privacy, professionalism and as required by the privacy regulations. With regards to privacy, the paramedic breached the privacy principles and may be charged if the patent sues him or her under the Office of the Health and Disability Commissioner.

Under Right 4, subsection 5 of the Health and Disability Services Consumer’s Right, which works under the civil law, professionals are required to respect the privacy of the patients by ensuring that their information is handled safely and that there is informed consent on the access and that the use of the information, as well as its disclosure, does not harm the patient in any manner (Tolich & Baldwin, 2005). In New Zealand, the Health and Disability Services Consumer’s Right protects the rights of all the health and disability customers, who have been offended in various ways in contrast to the established Codes, Regulations, and Principles. Prior to the accident, the patient qualified as a disability complaint and could sue the paramedic on grounds of infringement of privacy. Under the Civil Law, the paramedic is also liable to charges of professional negligence. The scenario reveals misconduct associated with negligence or ignorance in the medical profession.

Negligence or ignorance on duty of care is a serious civil offense in the New Zealand constitution. Healthcare professionals, while on their daily duties, are supposed to act professionally and abide by the codes and principles of health care privacy (Manning, 2014). From the case scenario, the paramedic ignored his professional responsibility to protect the customer by sharing the private information of the patient with friends outside the medical practice. The paramedic was also answerable to some sections of the Criminal Law, but only if the customer would decide to file a lawsuit seeking compensation from the paramedic. Nonetheless, the actions of the paramedic are not entirely chargeable under the Criminal Law, as the Criminal Law relies predominantly on the Code of Rights or the Code of Health and Disability Services Consumers’ Rights, which takes certain procedures to determine a case scenario before it is fully considered as a criminal offense.

Quiz 3: Critique of cases or legislation related to consumers rights

As highlighted by Backer (2008), under the Health and Disability Services Consumers’ Rights, patient must be respected, remain free from sexual exploitation, enjoy appropriate standards of care, have the right to be fully informed and must be consulted to give informed consent by the health professionals. More often, cases of breaches to these rights have undergone various critiques. Based on the case scenario, even though the paramedic, negligent of his duty, had abused the rights of the customer to privacy by not seeking informed consent that would guarantee him a permission to share the photo, the case may be disputable even in the presence of the current legal frameworks. The law misses out some sections that can significantly disprove the guiltiness of the paramedic in this situation (Skegg & Paterson, 2015). A close follow-up of the case shows that the act occurred outside the medical system and that the photo shared did not involve the patient’s treatment information.

The Code of Consumer’s Rights provides the consumers with the legal opportunity to hold the healthcare professionals accountable if they fail to seek informed choice and consent to use the patient’s data for experimental purposes, for legal, professional, or ethical purposes, and other relevant practices. Based on the case scenario, the situation may turn disputable and the patient may fail to hold the offender accountable as the sharing of the photo did not involve any of the practices stipulated under Right 6, section (a) to (g). The sharing of the photo is not further explained whether the sender intended to offer the image for research, legal, or professional purposes. The case does not mention whether, prior to sharing the photo, the doctor had observed the issues of consciousness of the customer. The third dilemma is whether there was proof of ignorance or negative intention concerning the actions of image sharing.

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Quiz 4: implications of case and legislation for your current or future health care practice

I am a health science student. As a health science student, I may spend my future care practice dealing with patients who require making informed choices and giving informed consent on whether or not certain information can be disclosed or not (Willis, 2014). The situation is very complex to ascertain whether the paramedic, who is defined as a medical professional solely responsible for taking care of patients considered to be in the emergency system or in the ambulatory care. Initially, paramedics were not part of the registered or unregistered health professional. However, prior to the enactment of the Health Practitioners Competence Assurance Act (the HPCA) in 2003, every healthcare worker became part of the Code of Rights. As I seek to pursue my career, the case may be important in my decision-making process that is necessary for the treatment and care, information sharing, and other medical decisions.

My encounter with this case scenario will assist me in ensuring that in future, every practice within my career, strictly follows the established standards, codes, and regulations that govern information collection and information sharing, interaction with patients, and treatment decisions (Keenan, Clery & Thomson, 2016). As a training health science student, the cause portends how in my future, I should manage to delineate between my social media behaviors and their implications to the medical practice. Seeking informed consent from the patients, respecting the privacy of the patients, and acting with caution and not negligence would help me in making the right decisions while interacting with my patients (Keenan, Clery & Thomson, 2016). This case scenario has also taught me that it is important to treat the patients with respect, and to seek consent when collecting and distributing their information whenever it is necessary for medical practice, legal reasons, or research purposes.

Conclusion

The case scenario reveals a tricky situation where a paramedic captures a photo of a badly injured patient for emergency purposes and later shares it with a friend. As learnt in this paper, the actions of the paramedic, who since the inception of the Health Practitioners Competence Assurance Act (HPCA) 2003, became part of the health care professional needed to be part of the Code of Rights, was answerable to complaints regarding breach of consumer’s right to information privacy and right to exercise informed choice or give a consent. Under the civil law, the paramedic is also culpable for his or her actions based on the legislation that requires all medical professionals to act in consideration of the existing professional codes, rules and regulations, and avoid acting with negligence while in their professional duties. 

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  1. Agnew, J., & Jorgensen, D. (2012). Informed Consent: A Study of the OR Consenting Process in New Zealand. AORN Journal, 96(6), 763–770.
  2. Baker, T. (2008). The Human Rights Review Tribunal and the rights of health and disability consumers in New Zealand. Journal of Law and Medicine, 16(3), 85-102.
  3. Bell, S., & Brookbanks, W. (1998). Chapter 5: Decision-making and the Protection of Personal and Property Rights Act 1998. Amsterdam, Holland: IOS Press.
  4. Clarke, S., & Oakley, J. (2007). Informed Consent and Clinician Accountability: The Ethics of Report Cards on Surgeon Performance. London: Cambridge University Press.
  5. Godbold, R., & McCallin, A. (2005). Setting the Standard? New Zealand’s Approach to ensuring health and disability services of an appropriate standard. Journal of Law and Medicine, 13(1), 125-134
  6. Keenan, R., Clery, L., & Thomson, R. (2016). In R. Kenan (Ed) Health care and the law. Wellington [N.Z.]: Brookers, Chapter 6.
  7. Manning, J. (2004). Informed consent to medical treatment: The common law and New Zealand’s Code of Patient’s Rights. Medical Law Review, 12(2), 181. 
  8. Skegg, P., & Paterson, R. (2015). Health Law in New Zealand (2nd Ed.). Wellington [N.Z.]: Thomson Brookers, Chapters 6-9.
  9. Tolich, M., & Baldwin, M. (2005). Informing consent in New Zealand research: researchers’ conflict of interest and patient vulnerability. The New Zealand Medical Journal, 118(12010), 1-8.
  10. Willis, P. (2014). Information, choice of treatment and informed consent. Medical Council of New Zealand, 16(2), 1-7.
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