19th Sep 2021 11:09:PM State
Eastern Sentinel Arunachal News

Medicine and Law- Unveiling a Symbiotic Relationship

Dr Samarendra Barman

Medicine and Law are often considered as two completely different fields of education and understanding. But their relationship with each other can be traced back to ancient times, when they were bonded through religion, superstition, and magic. In ancient civilizations, primitive legal codes, religious scriptures, and social doctrines were often ill distinguished and laws with a medical content were often found within their context. The oldest of these written records, such as “The Hammurabi Code”, which dates back to around 1750 BCE, laid out various legislations about the practice of medicine. The code also stated the concept of civil and criminal culpability of physicians for improper and negligent medical care. Since then, many such legal codes have been formulated by different civilizations over time to fix the role and responsibility of physicians in society.              
Moving fast forward, in the 17th century, with ever-growing convergence and overlapping of various issues pertaining to law and medicine, a new specialty named “Legal Medicine” had emerged to address them effectively and was actively promoted within the formal educational circles. In 1650, in Germany, Michiaelis delivered the first lecture on legal medicine. The first known medicolegal clinic was established in Vienna in 1830 and the second one in Berlin in 1833.   Since then, professionals from both fields have been actively trying to narrow down the gap between them through cooperation and collaboration for the greater benefit of the society. Today, physicians and lawyers collaborate more extensively than they used to in the 18th or 19th century.   
In the 21st century, with growing focus and attention towards the utility of human rights, law has become more intimately involved in medical practice. Its active involvement in the medical field ensures that the basic human rights of patient do not get violated while receiving medical care or while participating as a subject in any clinical or health research. The concept of medical ethics and its “four essential elements” viz Autonomy, Beneficence, Non-maleficence, and Justice have made every physician ethically accountable in front of law for any deliberate violation of those moral values. Today the active collaboration between medical and legal professionals can be seen in many areas of common interest such as Forensic medicine, Insurance medicine, torture medicine, medical negligence litigations, bioethics, product liability, providing health care to the victims of armed conflicts in compliance with the international humanitarian law and many more. There are many grey areas in the medical sciences such as euthanasia, artificial reproductive technique, withdrawal of artificial ventilation, organ transplantation, etc., where the laws of the land plays a vital role, which need to be understood and complied with by every physicians to avoid any medicolegal complications in the future. Today, law influences the medical profession by many ways for example, structuring and financing of medical services, licensure requirements, restrictions on the practice, and redress for wronged patients etc. This symbiotic relationship between the two fields is helping the professionals in understanding the role and responsibility of each other and also in solving many complex bioethical and medicolegal problems of today’s world.   
(The writer is Assistant Professor,
Department of Forensic Medicine
TRIHMS, Naharlagun and can be reached at sam_royale@rediffmail.com)

Kenter Joya Riba

(Managing Editor)
      She is a graduate in Science with post graduation in Sociology from University of Pune. She has been in the media industry for nearly a decade. Before turning to print business, she has been associated with radio and television.
Email: kenterjoyaz@easternsentinel.in / editoreasternsentinel@gmail.com
Phone: 0360-2212313

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