ACLM Short Courses
The Australasian College of Legal Medicine currently conducts three short courses, normally over the calendar year. These are the Basic Law Intensive (BLI), the Advanced Law Intensive (ALI) and the Expert Witness Course. The BLI and the ALI are each run over two days, usually weekends. Both these courses derive their content from the principles that underpin the area of law known as medical or health law. Medical law is concerned with the relationships between health professional and patient, health professional and health facility, health facility and patient, and the organisation of health care.
The courses however examine the legal issues from the point of view of the doctor or dentist practising clinical medicine or dentistry, and not specifically from the legal practitioner’s perspective. As such, the focus is on clinicians understanding the increasingly complex legal framework within which they work, and not with the legal practice issues such as bringing on or defending a cause of action.
Basic Law Intensive
The BLI begins with an introduction to the legal framework that supports the health system. Consent to medical treatment, substitute decision-making, clinical negligence, confidentiality and privacy are then discussed for the remainder of the first day. These areas of law embody the principles of medical law, namely autonomy of the patient and the tension that can arise between this fundamental principle and that of beneficence or ‘best interests.’
The second day involves examining the issues in clinical practice that relate to the beginning and end of life. Specifically, the topics discussed are artificial reproductive technology (ART), withdrawal of life sustaining measures, and the doctrine of double effect. The day concludes with an overview of forensic medicine, where clinical practice and the criminal and coronial law intersect.
Each presentation is followed by small group discussion of two clinical case studies that relate to the subject material. The small groups each then report back the whole group, identifying the legal issues that were involved in the clinical situation presented.
Advanced Law Intensive
The ALI examines consent to medical treatment (adults, children) and clinical negligence more closely, particularly in relation to the various Civil Liability Acts or equivalents. Day one concludes with an examination of trespass (lack of consent) and negligence in the context of the criminal law. Day two discusses the issues surrounding patient safety and open disclosure. The day concludes with looking at the regulation of health professionals.
The ALI is therefore designed to provide a more in depth understanding of the three general areas the law can personally affect a clinician in practice; the civil law, criminal law and disciplinary law. Case scenarios relevant to the topics will also be discussed in small groups.
Expert Witness Program
Legal Medicine encompasses the interchange between medicine and law and nowhere is this more apparent than when doctors are invited to provide expert witness testimony. This is provided as either the treating doctor or to provide an independent assessment of a circumstance within the domain of the doctor’s expertise.
Being an expert witness requires providing a report and/or attending a court or tribunal and is often stressful for the doctor concerned. The Australasian College of Legal Medicine (ACLM) runs training programs to familiarise clinicians as to what is required within such situations.
The course includes didactic lectures to offer advice as to what is expected of the expert by the instructing solicitor, the barrister and the adjudicator (such as the judge). It instructs the clinician how to behave within set situations. There is also provision of didactic/interactive advice from an experienced expert witness.
Each participant is expected to submit a de-identified legal medicine report at least two weeks prior to the course. These reports are critically marked to provide advice as to how they can be improved and they serve as a basis to be led and cross-examined in a moot (a mock trial) involving real lawyers in a courtroom environment.
This introduces the participants to all facets of expert witness training with the aim of both meeting the expectations of the legal profession while concurrently not ignoring that which is due to the expert by way of compensation and consideration.