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Health law and policy: a survival guide, to medicolegal issues for practitioners

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    Health law and policy: a survival guide, to medicolegal issues for practitioners bryan a liang. (Pp 309; £27.50). 2000. Woburn, MA, USA: Butterworth- Heinemann. ISBN: 0-7506-7107-6.

    The structure and functioning of the United States healthcare system is perceived by many as being analogous to an inscrutable labyrinth. Moreover, the medicolegal terrain in which physicians practice in the United States is extraordinarily litigious. Liang's remarkably well researched, and excellently written, bookHealth law and policy provides healthcare practitioners with a lucid, detailed road map to avert legal catastrophes in the mine ridden, United States medicolegal landscape.

    Although Liang's book is a superb compendium specifically of United States medicolegal issues and principles, it is noteworthy that the legal systems of the United States and United Kingdom are rooted, similarly, in the soil of judge made, “common” law. As such, Liang's expert examination of the amply developed body of United States medicolegal case precedents, spawned by the highly active legal system in America, may be of considerable instructive value to healthcare practitioners in the United Kingdom desiring to avoid entanglement in legal traps.

    Liang has a triad of doctorate degrees (in medicine, public policy, and law); and earns a living as a professor at an American law school. By virtue of his unusually wide ranging formal educational background, Liang is able to closely, and very competently, probe and dissect multitudinous, timely issues residing at the interface of law and medicine. The book is configured into four parts, encompassing 16 chapters. An often and effectually used mantra of Liang is to identify a medicolegal concept; and then provide an illustrative case, based on a real life case, followed by a pithy legal discussion of the case illustration. Generally, the numerous cases and accompanying legal discussions brightly illumine the adjoining textual material.

    In part I of the book, Liang focuses readers' attention on traditional areas of concern in the realm of law and medicine, including such topics as informed consent and confidentiality. In part II, Liang works assiduously to sketch the contours of the healthcare insurance structure in the United States. Modern delivery considerations—for example, physician licensure, fraud issues, and antitrust law—comprise the subject of a third part. In a concluding part, on end of life considerations, Liang studiously elucidates advance directives and definitions of death, and attendant legal and policy issues.

    In the preface, Liang states that the book is aimed at people interested in learning about the United States health enterprise. In this task, he is, indeed, quite successful. A distinguishing feature of the book, which finely tailors it to fit readers educated in fields outside the law, is that the author uses language understandable to non-lawyers. At the same time, Liang supplies copious quantities of medicolegal references. The book, as tailored, thus fits legal scholars as well.

    It is important for readers to understand that the book is not a substitute for competent legal counsel. The book can capably assist the non-lawyer in recognising potential legal problems; but it is not a source enabling the non-lawyer to fully flesh out legal issues in exacting manner, without the assistance of qualified counsel. Finally, although the book is presently up to date, a relevant, salient reality is that the medicolegal world explained so succinctly and carefully by Liang is changing rapidly, thus mitigating the book's future, practical value to readers.