Dr. Ronald B. Standler
Attorney in Massachusetts

Health Law Essays

Law, Medicine, & Ethics

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About Dr. Standler

I earned a Ph.D. in physics in 1977, then worked in electrical engineering research and consulting until 1995.   I am licensed to practice law in Massachusetts since Dec 1998 and I am admitted to practice in all state and federal courts in Massachusetts, as well as the U.S. Supreme Court.   I can easily travel to towns in northeastern Massachusetts, or to the Boston area, including Cambridge, MA.   I offer legal research services to licensed attorneys, including factual research in medical journals.

My homepage at www.rbs2.com/ contains links to documents with my credentials, my fees, how to contact me, and links to my essays on other topics in law.

I am not a specialist in health law. My interest in health law comes from my interests in: (1) privacy law for individuals, (2) ethics and public policy (including "informed consent"), and (3) how new technology makes changes in the law desirable.

Essays on Law

Essays on this website are provided only to provide general information and to communicate my personal comments on interesting topics in law, technology, and society.   Essays on this website are neither legal advice nor legal opinion.   Accessing this website or reading documents on this website does not create an attorney-client relationship.   See my disclaimer for details.

Each essay at this website is protected by copyright.   I have posted my Terms Of Service for printing, copying, and distributing my essays at this website.

I am an attorney only in Massachusetts, so I can not provide legal advice to people in other states of the USA, unless they have been injured or sued in Massachusetts, or unless your local attorney hires me as a consultant.   However, I have posted the following hints for how to find an attorney.

Medical Privacy Law

I am an advocate for increased privacy rights for individuals, less paternalism, and less government interference with private choices. See my collection of essays on privacy law. The following essays specifically concern medical privacy:

The law in the USA recognizes a legal right for all adults to refuse medical treatment, even if that refusal would hasten their death. My essay traces the history in the USA of the right to refuse medical treatment and cites many cases. This right was mostly ignored by lawyers until the 1960s, when lawyers for hospitals began seeking judicial orders to compel Jehovah's Witnesses to have a blood transfusion, against their sincere religious belief. Beginning in the 1970s, the right to refuse medical treatment was applied in right-to-die cases.   In doing legal research for this essay, I found at least 18 reported cases since Jan 1964 in which medical treatment was judicially ordered for a nonconsenting adult — usually a blood transfusion for a Jehovah's Witness, but sometimes a cesarean-section operation for a pregnant woman. To prevent such erroneous orders, I suggest abolishing the four state interests, and asserting an absolute right for a mentally competent adult to refuse medical treatment.

My long essay Annotated Legal Cases Involving Right-to-Die in the USA, quotes from the major cases involving disconnection of life-support machinery (e.g., ventilator, feeding tube) from patients in a hospital or nursing home.   This essay include long quotations from major judicial opinions, so readers can see how the law evolved.   I wrote this essay in April 2005 during the legal debacle about Terri Schiavo in Florida.

My long essay, Annotated Legal Cases on Physician-Assisted Suicide in the USA.   This essay include long quotations from major judicial opinions, so readers can see how the law evolved.   After discussing cases, I conclude that the conventional name "physician-assisted suicide" was poorly chosen, because assisting a suicide is a crime in the USA.   I wrote the first version of this essay in May 2005, as a follow-on to my right-to-die essay.   In May-June 2012, I added more cases, then expanded my criticism of the current law that prohibits physician-assisted suicide. The state interests in preserving life and preventing suicide are two major objections to physician-assisted suicide, and I criticize those state interests as anachronistic.

My list of links to resources on (1) physician-assisted suicide (especially in Oregon and Washington states), (2) right-to-die cases, and (3) right to refuse medical treatment cases.

My old essay on nonconsensual medical experiments on human beings discusses some famous (notorious) cases and then proposes a draft of some rules that might protect research subjects better than the current rules in the USA. I wrote this essay during Christmas vacation in 1996, with a few small revisions during 1997-99.

Other Health Law Topics

My essay on statutes requiring silver nitrate prophylaxis in eyes of newborns, as an example of how not to write a statute. From 1881, continuing until the introduction of antibiotics in the late 1940s, silver nitrate was the standard prophylaxis and many legislatures explicitly wrote silver nitrate into state statutes. When antibiotics became available in the late 1940s, silver nitrate became obsolete. However, physicians in many states were required by statute to continue using the obsolete silver nitrate. This was particularly unfortunate, because silver nitrate is painful, and caused needless suffering in babies. The legislatures should have required a physician to use an effective prophylaxis against bacteria in eyes of newborn babies, and let the physicians choose an appropriate drug.

Massachusetts Law

My essay on legal rights of medical patients in Massachusetts — including mental patients — contains quotations from Massachusetts statutes, citations to Massachusetts cases, and some commentary.   I also have a companion list of links to other webpages on legal rights of medical patients in Massachusetts.

My webpage on Massachusetts End-Of-Life Planning tersely summarizes the law in Massachusetts and has links to both (1) health-care proxy forms for residents of Massachusetts and (2) nationwide end-of-life planning in the USA ("living will" and proxy).

My Experience Using
Technical Information from Medicine

My first published, peer-reviewed paper, back in 1972, reviewed the medical literature for toxicity of silver iodide and concluded that this cloud-seeding material posed no risk to human health in weather modification projects.   My technical electrical engineering book, first published in 1989, is unusual in that it includes a chapter on safety and injuries in high-voltage laboratories, and cites articles in medical journals.

Several of my essays show my ability to search medical journals and include medical information in essays on law. In 1997, I wrote two essays: one on the legal duty to protect people from lightning, the other on lightning injuries to people using land-line telephones.   In 2007, I wrote an essay on the legal liability of a radio station that sponsored a stupid contest in which the person who drank the largest volume of water won the contest, leading to one death from water intoxication.

I offer legal research services to licensed attorneys, including factual research in medical journals.

Seeking Financial Sponsor for My Research

Few people appreciate the hundreds of hours that it takes to research, write, and revise one essay.   As a self-employed attorney and consultant, I can not subsidize people's need for free legal research and analysis.   If you know of a nonprofit organization that would pay me to write scholarly essays, I would appreciate a referral.

Copyright 2012 by Ronald B. Standler
This document at   http://www.rbs2.com/ihealth.htm
first posted 1 July 2012, revised 18 Aug 2012

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