Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

Medical Law: A Very Short Introduction





The old adage ‘never judge a book by its cover’ aptly applies to Charles Foster's Medical Law: A Very Short Introduction. Coming to this book, a reader may expect a quick, content-light introduction to the basics of medical law, but A Very Short Introduction is pleasantly surprising in both its coverage and depth of discussion. Divided into 11 chapters, Foster introduces the reader to the origins and legacies of medical law (chapter 1), with subsequent chapters covering the enforcement of medical law, birth, confidentiality and consent, negligence, research on human subjects, resource allocation, the end of life and organ donation, and the future of medical law. With only 127 substantive pages, the breadth of content is ambitious, but each chapter comprises a carefully structured discussion that engages the reader with the core issues in each area of medical law. Key concepts are explained clearly and concisely. For example, pages 72–78 cover causation in clinical negligence and the discussion includes ‘but for’ causation, loss of a chance, material contribution, consent cases, and hypothetical causation in the context of omissions. Significant cases, such as Bolam1 and Bolitho,2 are highlighted and their relevance within the framework of the law explained. Comparative cases are included, introducing readers to the diversity within medical law across jurisdictions and the divergent solutions that can be applied to a single issue. Important issues that help shape the development of medical law are also discussed. For example, in chapter 7 the reader is introduced to the legal and ethical regulation of medical research on human subjects and how law and ethics attempt to prevent abusive medical research, such as that conducted by Josef Mengele and others during the Nazi regime. The chapter also highlights the tension between scientifically satisfactory clinical trials and protecting human participants (pp. 82–83). A Very Short Introduction also poses thought provoking questions; the best examples being delivered in the final chapter where Foster briefly discusses the future direction of medical law and the ‘intellectually epic challenges ahead’ (p. 126).

Acceptance Date Jul 7, 2014
Publication Date Jul 7, 2014
Print ISSN 0967-0742
Publisher Oxford University Press
Pages 163 - 164
Publisher URL

Downloadable Citations