Legal safeguards in health law and policy are enduring importance, particularly in a changing and increasingly complex society where the population in ageing; care is becoming more personalized and expensive and welfare systems are under continuous pressures for more efficiency, shortages in available medical staff and resources. At the Law Center for Health and Life we work in a number of projects on establishing a stronger knowledge base for understanding the impacts of this changing landscape on fundamental legal safeguards in the field of health. These project are on:
In this line of research societal impact is reached through official advisory legislative advice on the impact of health laws and policies on the ground. For example, researchers from the Law Center for Health and Life have been involved in a project on the evaluation of the functioning and impact of the Dutch Law for Quality, Complaints and Conflicts in Health Care (Wet kwaliteit, klachten en geschillen zorg, Wkkgz - 2016).
Through interdisciplinary research the Centre contributes to the evidence of the actual impact of laws on groups of patients and on health professionals in critical areas (social) health care fields. This research immediately impacts discussions in the parliament and government on adjusting or improving health laws and regulation.
In this research we work in close synergy with the Amsterdam University Medical Centers Research group: Ethics, Law and Humanities.
The law as a legal safeguard in the field of health is particularly relevant where it pertains to people that are in extra vulnerable care conditions. Such as people who are mentally incompetent or (more or less) health illiterate, people who are subject to interference by the public health authorities, or in involuntary care or elderly facilities. In our research we address the legal safeguards in the form of patients rights and legal and extra legal procedures required in this context. What is the importance of the right to self-determination under these circumstances? How can human dignity be upheld in situations where people have a hard time keeping themselves or others safe? Which legal procedures provide safeguards for people in vulnerable positions to ensure procedural rights to protest and reject care?
The regulation of the quality of care is of highly politically and legally relevant to patients, providers and (public) payers. Quality of care does not only relate to the safety and efficacy of health care, but also to the ways in which patients can complain about the care they received and the accountability and remedies available for patients vis-a-vis providers. Some of these components are enshrined in laws that generally aim to improve the quality of health care services and to strengthen the rights of patients. The central question driving this research is: To what extent are the intended objectives of these laws met in reality? This research is conducted in an interdisciplinary manner, using both qualitative, quantitative and legal analyses. Recently researchers at the Centre participated in an evaluation of the functioning and impact of the Dutch Law for Quality, Complaints and Conflicts in Health Care (Wet kwaliteit, klachten en geschillen zorg, Wkkgz - 2016), among other relevant pieces of legislation.
The enforcement of rights is not only important to translate human rights concepts into specific substantive rights and to implement these rights, but also to create mechanisms to enforce rights in case they are violated or ignored. Enforcement includes the possibility of financial compensation in the case of medical errors or adverse events. Without an adequate enforcement mechanism (either in civil, criminal, disciplinary or public law) then patients’ rights may lose significance. Researchers at the Center have been active in this area for many years, mainly focusing on complaint regulations, disciplinary systems and medical liability. These activities include legal analyses and reviews, as well as interdisciplinary projects in which legal and empirical research methods are combined. The aim of this research is to contribute to the development and implementation of fair and just systems for compensation and redress in the field of health.