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Medical Law: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) [Paperback]

Charles Foster
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
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Book Description

28 Feb 2013 0199660441 978-0199660445 1
Medical law is concerned with our bodies, and what happens to them during and after our lives. When things go wrong with our bodies, we want to know what our rights are, and what governs the conduct of the clinicians into whose hands we put our lives and limbs. Dealing with matters of life and death, it can therefore have a fundamental impact on medical practice. Headlines in the media often involve the core issues of medical law - organ transplantation, abortion, withdrawal of treatment, euthanasia, confidentiality, research on humans - these are topics that affect us all. Headlines can misrepresent, however. In order to fully understand the issues and their relevance, we have to delve into the cases and into the principles behind them. In this highly readable Very Short Introduction, Charles Foster explores different examples to illustrate the key problems and principles of medical law. ABOUT THE SERIES: The Very Short Introductions series from Oxford University Press contains hundreds of titles in almost every subject area. These pocket-sized books are the perfect way to get ahead in a new subject quickly. Our expert authors combine facts, analysis, perspective, new ideas, and enthusiasm to make interesting and challenging topics highly readable.

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Medical Law: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) + Medical Ethics: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) + The History of Medicine: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford; 1 edition (28 Feb 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199660441
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199660445
  • Product Dimensions: 17 x 11 x 1.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 74,834 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

More About the Author

I'm a writer based in Oxford, UK. I teach at the University of Oxford, and am a Fellow of Green Templeton College, Oxford. Most of my books, in some way or other, are presumptuous and more or less unsuccessful attempts to work out what we are doing on this extraordinary planet. Those attempts have generated books on evolutionary biology, the physiology of spiritual experience, pilgrimage, Biblical archaeology, theology and ethics, as well as travel books.

I travel a lot, and have bled and left digits behind in some very unpleasant places. I'm a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, and have a particular passion for camel expeditions.

I have a very long-suffering wife, Mary, and five wondrous, wild children: Lizzie, Sally, Tom, James and Rachel.

My website is It would be great if you could drop by there. If you'd like to email me to tell me how badly I've got things wrong in my books, I'm at

Product Description

About the Author

Charles Foster is a Fellow of Green Templeton College, University of Oxford, a tutor in medical law and ethics at the University of Oxford, and a barrister (practising in medical law) at Outer Temple Chambers, London. He read law and veterinary medicine at the University of Cambridge. He is the author, editor or contributor to over thirty five books. His website is at

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Worth the money 7 April 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book is a very useful introduction to Medical Law. Despite it's tongue in cheek references to the amount of money lawyers earn whilst conducting medical law cases, it serves as a very good primer for a keen neophyte to tackle before attempting to read Kennedy and Grubb's magisterial work (Medical Law) for example.

The chapters are logically laid out and the pace moves along quite quckly and there are references to important cases for those who wish to delve more deeper into the various obiter dicta and legal reasoning from our judges.

I would have liked to have seen this book before I started my law degree because it would have given a little more insight into the complicated world of tort and medical practice.

I highly reccomend it,as long as it is remembered that it is a very short introduction-because you really can't get away with not tackling Kennedy and Grubb if you want to know the whole story.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent review of the subject 17 May 2013
By Roy Collins VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
My wife and I have both read this and feel it gives an excellent summary of the issues and explains legal thinking very clearly and effectively.

It covers the end of life, the implications of negligence, the much argued about issue of research on human subjects (as opposed to the chemistry of pharmacology, for example), ante-natal issues, how resources get allocated to patients ("Each dilemma", writes Foster, "is potentially explosive"), and organ donation.

It also insightfully explains something of the origins of the subject and also speculates on where medical law may go next. There also is an important section on enforcement of medical law, explaining the problems. It's not a 1000-page textbook but it manages to cover a great deal very concisely in attractive prose. What it strikes me at being really good at is exposing the actual underlying problem rather than concealing it with specialist jargon.

Like almost all Very Short Introductions it seems to be a great place to start if you know nothing about the subject - but it's also fascinating for those who do know something about it to see what the author includes and leaves out.

My wife and I have some involvement with the subject: she serves on a medical ethics panel (research-orientated) after a working lifetime as a nurse, and I am academically involved with ethics in the general sense and earlier practised in some aspects of law.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Crystalline legal mind meets blood and emotion 27 April 2013
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
As stated, a very brief introduction, said to be at the level of a "thinking man's Wikipedia".
250 smallish pages, written by an academic lawyer and I'm not sure who the audience are. Not practicing lawyers or doctors; more for the interested layman perhaps.

It is very interesting, though and quite an exhilarating ride. A well-ordered, rather crystalline, top-rank legal mind happens to belong to a warm human being. It encounters the deepest of human questions in a practical setting and tries to make logical and human decisions meet.

Constantly the book provokes "What would you want to happen?" questions and shows the law trying to find solutions to real-world cases that involve common sense, human emotion, affordability, changing morals and a need for rules make everything work.

Chapters include: "consent"-Is consent to intercourse given if one partner knows that they are HIV positive (probably no) or if it is not yet known (probably yes); "before birth"-does a foetus have rights? (yes if it survives, otherwise no); "end of life"-is switching off a ventilator in accordance with a patient's wishes a deed of commission and therefore manslaughter or a deed of omission refusing to treat without consent and therefore legal? (not sure).

Highly recommended.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Medical law for the layman 26 May 2013
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
With no formal training in either medicine or the law, but with a layman's interest in both, I found the combination in this book fascinating, and the slightly ironic, sometimes even humorous, conversational style very attractive. After a brief historical overview, each following chapter deals with a specific aspect of the subject, such as the rights of an embryo, clinical negligence, organ donation, confidentiality, and many others. (Did you know that a fetus cannot sue a doctor who has caused it harm by negligence, but can do so as soon as birth has occurred?) The approach is to illustrate the concepts by real cases and to frequently challenge the reader to think about what they would consider to be a reasonable outcome. The law in this area is not always strictly consistent, and often bends to achieve what common sense would dictate is the right decision. (Example: Do you think you own your body parts? Well sometimes you do and sometimes you don't. It depends on the circumstances.)

Foster is very much in favour of this flexible, common sense approach, rather than attempt to find a perfectly logical set of rules. But there are also some decidedly odd points of law. (Example: If I drown you I will have committed murder, but if I watch you drown, but do nothing to help, even though I could easily do so, I have committed no crime, because I am not obligated by law to rescue you.) But these `asides' do not distract from the essential information that each chapter conveys in an admirably clear, logical way.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Introduction to the issues
I first learned about the Very Short Introduction series a few months ago through a piece of freelance work. Read more
Published 1 month ago by elkiedee
4.0 out of 5 stars Short summary.
Very basic information about medical law. Not so helpful for law students, but easy to read and understant. Good start.
Published 7 months ago by Alex
4.0 out of 5 stars A fine basic examination
Overall a good read and introduction to Medical law by the author. He covers in a clear and simple style the historical origins, social context and the various evolving aspects of... Read more
Published 8 months ago by Patrick Mullane
3.0 out of 5 stars Could be better.
A little dry, but mildly interesting. As Foster points out at the beginning, medical law is still in its infancy and therefore filled with flaws and is constantly changing. Read more
Published 9 months ago by C. C. Chivers
4.0 out of 5 stars A quick look at how medical law has developed and continues to...
This is another good book in the very short introduction series. This book covers how medical law has developed across various jurisdictions but mainly focussing on the UK and US... Read more
Published 10 months ago by Andrew Dalby
4.0 out of 5 stars So much difficult detail to condense into in this format. A good...
Thank you Mr Charles Foster for this wonderful and valiant attempt to cover a large body of jurisprudence with complex twists and turns. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Jack Chakotay
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent primer.
Continuing the excellent pedigree of the Introduction series, Medical Law, provides an effective, accessible and practical introduction to the subject and fulfils the remit of the... Read more
Published 10 months ago by Pompom
3.0 out of 5 stars Oh no not now.
I ordered this at just the moment when I was about to have my own medical treatment. Read some of it. Didn't really want to continue. Read someone else's review.
Published 10 months ago by Stuart Burns
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating
Coming from a legal background and having recently turned my eye toward the world of medicine I couldn't put this book down. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars A priesthood apart
Medical Law, a very short introduction, is an introductory essay with supporting chapters on the uniqueness of medical regulation, and the uneasy relationship between... Read more
Published 11 months ago by Martin Turner
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