Survey on views and knowledge of house officers on medical-legal issues

P. R. Beninger, E. S. Beninger, Faith T Fitzgerald

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Physicians have experienced an increasingly pervasive influence of the law on their thinking and practice. House staff members and medical students similarly encounter medical-legal problems during their training. Questions about informed consent, particularly the patient's competence to consent (1, 2) and what information the patient needs in order to make an informed choice (3), frequently arise on the wards. Some states allow terminally ill patients to direct their physicians to withhold or withdraw life-sustaining procedures which serve only to prolong life artificially (4, 5). Involuntary medical treatment is another medical-legal concern (6). In addition, physician practice is governed by statutes on such matters as child abuse and communicable diseases (7). Finally, there is an omnipresent fear of litigation. Some medical schools have responded by incorporating courses on legal medicine into their curricula. Medical-legal issues are being included on the examinations of the National Board of Medical Examiners, and Texas now requires a separate medical jurisprudence examination for licensure. Though medical schools may have formalized medical-legal instruction, postgraduate professional training programs generally have not developed such structured programs. For example, at the University of California, Davis, Medical Center (UCDMC), legal issues are sometimes mentioned in conferences dealing with ethics or quality of care, and legal matters that arise on the wards are discussed as part of teaching and work rounds. However, there are no regularly scheduled conferences or lectures on legal medicine for house staff members or clinical students. Increasingly, house staff members at the UCDMC have expressed the desire to know more about law as it applies to medicine. A questionnaire was designed by the authors to evaluate the house staff members' knowledge of relevant medical-legal principles.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)481-483
Number of pages3
JournalJournal of Medical Education
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1985

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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