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The Uneasy Intersection of Law and Medicine

This Think Tank will explore the uneasy relationship that often arises between law and medicine, also as surveyed through the eyes of philosophy. These include issues in which the law dictates medical practice; medical practice appears to run outside the law; and the ethics of the situation appear to dictate yet another response besides those envisioned in either medicine or the law. Students will receive training in legal analysis, medical differential diagnosis, and philosophic analysis. They will be expected to employ all these forms of thinking in the development of the Think Tank project(s). Some off-campus meetings or assignments may also be expected: for example, attendance at Mental Health Court or sessions at the Utah Center for Reproductive Medicine.

The range of potential issues for discussion and project development are immense; it will be up to the participants in the Think Tank to focus on those for which they can devise manageable solutions or at least courses of action. Among them are:

• Inappropriate prescription of narcotics, including to known addicts
• Sterilization of women with developmental disabilities
• Parental decision-making for children in light of religious commitments
• Competence in legal and medical contexts
• Custody evaluations
• Terri Schiavo, Parker Jensen, and other volatile cases
• Legal remedies for domestic violence
• HIPAA and reportable offenses
• HIV testing for drug abusers, prostitutes, prison inmates, etc.


First semester: short weekly or biweekly discussion paragraphs and guided assignments; beginning formulation of projects. In the second semester, project development and implementation will be the main focus of the Think Tank. The topic area of this Think Tank will require considerable narrowing by the students in order to settle on workable projects. But we believe that such projects can and will be developed that illuminate the uneasy intersection of medicine and law. Students should emerge from this Think Tank with a better understanding of how the law works, especially in dealing with medical cases; how medical practice interacts with the legal system; and the overall ethical issues these situations raise.

Final Report: The Uneasy Intersection of Law and Medicine



The Donna Garff Marriott Residential Scholars Community. Room: 1205


Judith Atherton, JD, Law
Margaret P. Battin, PhD, Philosophy
Kirtly Parker Jones, MD, Medicine

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