Madden brings wealth of expertise to health and medical law

The law governing adverse events in medical treatment is one of the fastest developing areas in the legal sphere, and MLS Senior Fellow Bill Madden is at the heart of it.

As a teacher of Medical Litigation in the Melbourne Law Masters program, Madden draws on more than thirty years of litigation experience as a medical negligence lawyer.

Medical Litigation is one of the most popular subjects in the Master of Health and Medical Law.

“Over the course of a week, the subject aims to provide students with an overview of medical litigation, and also features a series of guest lecturers speaking on key areas,” Madden says.

The class brings together doctors and lawyers from across Australia and overseas who are looking to deepen their understanding of the law in the medical sphere. Students consider key legal issues such as medical negligence, what outcomes warrant compensation, insurance and explores topical issues such as genetics, reproduction new treatment offerings such as stem cell therapies.

Widely recognised as an expert in his field and the writer of a popular blog, Madden has both an academic understanding of the area, having co-authored three books, and brings practical knowledge to his teaching through his role as Special Counsel at Carroll & O'Dea Lawyers.

This wide range of experience has informed Madden’s belief that now is a good time to be studying medical law, with new issues constantly arising due to rapid scientific and social developments.

“What has happened more recently, and what continues to happen is, when there are advances in medicine, that can create some challenges for the law,” he says.

“For example, developments in the field of genetics is one area that creates issues and poses new questions for the law.”

One such case recently took place in England, where a woman sued her father’s doctors for failing to disclose his hereditary genetic condition to her while she was pregnant, despite her father not providing his consent for the doctors to do so.

“She wanted to be able to sue the hospital for not telling her about that risk, in circumstances where the hospital knew, and she could have done something about it,” he says.

“That obviously involves a breach of doctor-patient confidentiality, but there is a recognition that doctor-patient confidentiality can be breached in some circumstances where somebody else is going to be injured.

“It’s an extrapolation of that idea -what should happen about the disclosure of genetic information?”

This is just one example of the kinds of questions students grapple with in the Medical Litigation subject.

Madden says the medico-legal area of law is becoming more and more significant.

“There is a growth in the number of disciplinary actions against, doctors, there is a lot of debate about how that should be dealt with,” he says.

“But it is the advances in the medicine itself – areas like stem cell therapies and genetic research - that are likely to make the field grow.”

Find out more about the Melbourne Law Masters