Criminal Law/Legal Aspect of Healthcare


Criminal law as defined by Pozgar (2007) is a body of common law that contains used for punishment of criminal offences. Criminal law is a representation of the acceptable behaviour for human beings by the society. Crimes are regarded as as felonies or misdemeanors depending on the seriousness of the crime. A felony is a serious crime that is punishable by a long jail term which is more than a year. An example of this type of crime includes murder or rape. Alternatively, a misdemeanor is less serious than a felony and is punishable by a short jail term preferably less than a year or a fine.

According to Pinnell, Santucci & Potzgar (2010) criminal law is a system that regulates the behaviour of groups as well as individuals in relation to the norms of the society. The primary objective of criminal laws is to protect an individual, maintenance of public order and safety, use of punishment as a weapon to deter the occurrence of crime and rehabilitation of criminals so that they can fit in the society. The heath care organizations are not an exception because this is where patients are helpless and at the mercies of health care professionals. This is where those that are mentally and morally deficient can take advantage of those that are mentally and physically impaired. These are institutions where people come so as to feel physically and mentally healthy in addition to being safe. However, health care organizations are places where many crimes are bound to take place (Pinnell, Santucci & Potzgar, 2010). Crimes such as negligence and patient abuse have become so common such that the United States Criminal Justice has placed a zero-tolerance policy for these crimes.

There are many offences committed by health care professionals either knowingly or unknowingly. As explored by Iwrey, (2009) these offences depending on their magnitude lead to prosecution of the professional in a court of law. These offences may include performing of unnecessary tests for financial gain, having a sexual relationship with a patient or the provision of controlled substances that are not medically necessary. All these offences can lead to prosecution of the health care professional. It is also imperative to note that, complaints forwarded to the administration such as the neglect of duty can lead to prosecution. In addition to prosecution, there are other actions taken by some states in order to make sure that these crimes do not reoccur. The sanctions imposed on the heath care professional are published making it public to all. If the one is fired from the organization they were working for due to malpractice, then it becomes difficult for them to seek employment in another organization now that their offences have been made public. This not only affects the career of the professional, but also their reputation.

The most common way that the judicial system uses in order to prevent the occurrence of crimes in health care organizations which have become so common is the revoking of one’s license. Since it is impossible for a medical professional to practise without a license, the offences are unlikely to recur (Iwrey, 2009). This at times has been seen by most critics as unfair because some of the crimes the professionals are prosecuted for are beyond their control and loosing of a license is a punishment that at times does not fit the crime. However, the judicial system insists that the revoking of medical licenses for those prosecuted with crimes especially those associated with fraud is the best way to control these crimes.






Potzgar, G. (2007). Legal Experts of Health Care Administration. Canada: Jones and Barlett Publishers. Print.


Iwrey, R. (2009). “Health Care Licensing Action and Criminal Implications” Feature Article.


Pinnell, J., Santucci, N. & Potzgar, G. (2010). Legal and Ethical Issues for Health Care Professionals. Canada: Jones and Barlett Publishers. Print.



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