Public Health and Law

Healthcare Policy and Law In the most general sense, this domain is concerned with an individual’s access to care (e.g., What poli- cies and laws impact an individual’s ability to access needed care?), the quality of the care the person receives (e.g., Is it appropriate, cost-effective, and non- negligent?), and how the person’s care will be financed (e.g., Is the person insured?). However, “access,” “qual- ity,” and “financing” are themselves rather large sub- domains, with their own sets of complex policy and legal issues; in fact, it is common for students to take semester-long policy and/or law courses focused on just one of these subdomains.Public Health Policy and Law The second large topical domain is that of public health policy and law. A central focus here is on why and how the government regulates private individuals and cor- porations in the name of protecting the health, safety, and welfare of the general public. Imagine, for example, that the federal government is considering a blanket policy decision to vaccinate individuals across the coun- try against the deadly smallpox disease, believing that the decision is in the best interests of national security. Would this decision be desirable from a national policy perspective? Would it be legal? If the program’s desir- ability and legality are not immediately clear, how would you go about analyzing and assessing them? These are the kinds of questions with which public health policy and law practitioners and scholars grapple.Bioethics Finally, there is the bioethics domain to health policy and law. Strictly speaking, the term bioethics is used to describe ethical issues raised in the context of med- ical practice or biomedical research. More compre- hensively, bioethics can be thought of as the point at which public policy, law, individual morals, societal values, and medicine intersect. The bioethics domain houses some of the most explosive questions in health policy, including the morality and legality of abortion, conflicting values around the meaning of death and the rights of individuals nearing the end of life, and the policy and legal consequences of mapping the human genetic code.Social, Political, and Economic Historical Context Dividing the substance of health policy and law into broad topical categories is only one way to conceptual- ize them. A second way to consider health policy and

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