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Book Review: Health Law in Australia Print E-mail

Book_Health_Law.jpgBy Ben White, Fiona McDonald and Lindy Willmott (eds.)

Published by Thomson Reuters1

Reviewed by Matthew Hickey

Launched in December 2010, Health Law in Australia delivers an exposition of the current law in this field, with considered analysis of developing and rapidly changing areas of the law and practice, both legal and medical.

The contributors to Health Law in Australia are a collection of esteemed academics and practitioners from the Australian Capital Territory, New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia and Victoria. The quality of the chapter authors is evidence of the editors’2 commitment to gathering a broad range of expertise. It also provides a truly national exploration of the subject.

The book is divided into five parts:

  1. part one contains three chapters, which provide a general introduction to the field of health law and the legal framework of the Australian health system, in addition to considering medical and health ethics;
  2. part two contains five chapters, by which the reader is introduced to general principles of health law, including consent, medical negligence, confidentiality and privacy;
  3. part three, entitled “Beginning of Life” contains three chapters which deal with assisted reproductive technology, abortion and surrogacy respectively;
  4. part four, entitled “End of Life” contains three chapters which deal with euthanasia and assisted suicide, withdrawing and withholding life-sustaining medical treatment, and the doctrine of double effect (whereby treatment administered on the one hand to relieve pain may simultaneously hasten death on the other);
  5. part five, entitled “Select Issues in Health Law” contains five chapters dealing with various current and challenging issues arising in this space, including regulation of health professionals (discussing recent nationalisation of regulation of health professionals), mental health law, health and medical research, as well as the emerging fields of biotechnology and nanotechnology.

The editors have taken great care to ensure that separate chapters, written by different contributors, function as a collective work, by applying consistent style, structure and, most importantly, nomenclature. As a result, Health Law in Australia is coherent and internally consistent, a consequence all-too-rare in multiple-authored texts. For that reason, in my opinion, the book satisfies the aspiration its editors state, in its preface, that Health Law in Australia, while intended for legal practitioners, also be accessible to students, both undergraduate and postgraduate.

Running to almost 700 pages, Health Law in Australia is a comprehensive text with extensive footnotes containing reliable citations and references to international case law, journals, electronic resources and other scholarly works.

For those to whom health law, or some aspect of it, is a regular part of professional life, this book will be a welcome addition to the library and one that represents extremely good value, at a recommended retail price of $110 (inc. GST).


  1. The publisher’s web page for the book is here.
  2. Each of the editors is an academic in the Law Faculty at Queensland University of Technology.

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