Just like knowing what to do when you’re in a car accident is important, every small business owner should understand at least the basics of medical law and regulations.
Medical law is complicated, but is necessary to protect doctors, patients and even employers (that’s you). It’s essential that you not just understand these laws so that you don’t break them but that you know what to do when a law is broken, however accidentally it might have happened.
If your small business operates within legal spheres you really need to have an understanding of medical law, particularly if they plan to work as litigators. As a small business owner, even if your company does not operate in the legal field, it is important you understand where you can and cannot be held liable for your employees’ health issues.
The 3 Categories of Medical Law
Medical law encompasses three main categories: confidentiality, criminal law, and medical negligence.
Confidentiality prohibits health care practitioners from disclosing private information about their patients. If you’ve ever switched doctors, you’ve signed a release that allows your first doctor to send information to your new doctor. These release forms are necessary to prove you’ve allowed information to be passed along, rather than the doctor maliciously gave your information away without consent. As an employer you cannot forward an employee’s medical information without their consent—even if a doctor requests it.
Criminal law is the category of medical law that deals with criminal activity in the healthcare community. For example, if a doctor performs a medical procedure without a patient’s consent, the doctor is criminally liable. These cases are not covered by medical malpractice insurance.
Criminal law also governs medical consent. Sometimes (not in all cases) it is considered a criminal offense to fail to obtain patient consent. Only when a medical professional has to act to save the patient’s life, is the lack of consent legally allowed. It is also important to understand that, even if an employee has a medical emergency while on the job, *you* cannot give consent for medical procedures (unless the employee has signed a waiver allowing you do to so).
Giving consent when you’re not legally able opens you up to criminal lawsuits.
Medical negligence, or medical malpractice, is the term used to describe when a healthcare professional engages in negligent acts that cause injury or death to a person under their care. Unless you run a medical practice you likely won’t have to worry about this one.
While not technically under the “medical” umbrella, “personal injury” law is where medical laws and employment laws often blend together. The most classic and, sadly, common example of this is mesothelioma.
Mesolthelioma is a life-threatening form of cancer. Although the people who suffer from it have a medical disease–and will need to recoup their medical bills–this disease wasn’t caused by their doctor, and is therefore personal injury, not medical negligence. Mesothelioma is caused by the exposure to asbestos. Most patients suffering from it encountered asbestos while they were on the job—either as handlers or because they worked in a building that had it installed.
Anyone suffering from this form of cancer should seriously consider hiring a law firm for mesothelioma litigation because the use of asbestos in buildings has been illegal for decades.
If you are buying or building office space it is your responsibility to make sure that the structure is asbestos-free before allowing your employees access to it or you could be held liable for their cancer—and there is no statute of limitations to protect you from lawsuits because the statute for legal action begins with the diagnosis date, not the date of exposure.
Protect Yourself – Know the Law
There are many reasons every person should familiarize themselves with medical and personal injury and employment laws. You need to know what you will and won’t be held liable for with regards to an employee’s health.