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Law is the term used to generally describe sets of rules, regulations, standards and consequences used by society to impart justice. Justice is often thought of as a sense of fairness, or equality of human rights. …
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Health Care Law Law is the term used to generally describe sets of rules, regulations, standards and consequences used by society toimpart justice. Justice is often thought of as a sense
of fairness, or equality of human rights. Though the United States is said to have the
fairest system of justice in the world, there are frequently cases deemed as miscarriages
of justice, by one or more groups of citizens. Often legislation that is designed to provide
equal access lacks resources at various state or regional levels to carry out its purpose.
Oversight to insure that legislation is put into practice can be sporadic. These factors are
among many others that explain why law is not an exact science. Those who are hired and
elected to uphold the law possess their own views which can and do affect their own
interpretation of the law and how they carry out their duties.
Just as judges, legislators, police and others working to uphold the law can be biased,
as can health care workers. Though OBRA89 was enacted in 1984 to include more children
and pregnant women in the Medicaid program (Flint, 2006), this served to create more
disparity in health care access. A comprehensive report by the Institute of Medicine in
2002 identifies health care worker bias as one of two major contributing factors in health
care disparities (Watts, 2003). Specific prejudices include provider assumption of Medicaid
patients in general to be less intelligent and more prone to substance abuse. Such attitudes
create situations where patients are denied basic medical rights such as life support and
pain medication, as they are deemed unworthy or undeserving. While law dictates that all
patients be given equal and proper medical care, it is difficult in most situations, to
determine if prejudice and subsequent malicious intent are the cause, as opposed to general
overburden of a system. Practices in health care that are considered unlawful include use of
excessive force, overmedicating, withholding medication, failure to provide adequate

Health Care Law 2
nutrition, selling prescriptions or any other act that causes further injury or general
decline in health as a result of the action(Arkansas Attorney General). Most patient
abuse within the health care system targets the elderly, though many other cases of abuse
by physicians and other staff occur in hospitals and clinics. Many health care institutions
have ethics committees, though they typically do not address ethical issues until a
problem arises with a specific employee or department.
Health care worker attitudes and views surrounding ethical issues can change over time
for a number of reasons. Exposure to other workers with specific bias and prejudice,
overwork, cultural influence and unethical treatment by employers are a few of the reasons
change occurs. While changes in ethical views do not necessarily indicate that the health
care worker will cause injury to or deny care to a patient; extremely negative views or
prejudice can distort judgment, leading to disregard of actual law over a period of time.
Though most health care workers are taught ethics and law during their training, many
are not exposed to such subjects again in their careers. Many businesses today realize that
lack of cultural sensitivity and attitudes of prejudice can greatly affect public view, and
therefore, overall corporate health. Organizations now provide training in sensitivity and
awareness that is required by most employees. Rosalyn Watts suggests such programs are
necessary for health care institutions as well, to provide care equally without consideration
of race, gender or socio-economic status, and to prevent not only unethical treatment, but
attitudes and behaviors that may lead to outright unlawful and abusive treatment.
Arkansas State Attorney. Retrieved October 3, 2006 from
Flint, S. (2006, February). Ensuring Equal Access for Medicaid Children. Health and
Social Work, 31, 65.
Watts, R.(2003, January 31). Race Consciousness and the Health of African
Americans. Online Journal of Issues in Nursing, 8,1,3. Retrieved October 3, 2006
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