National Health Law Bulletin – May 2020

06 May 2020

We are delighted to welcome you to the HWL Ebsworth Health Law Bulletin.

The health law practice of HWL Ebsworth is one of the premier legal service providers to the Australian health industry, dedicated to assisting clients with all aspects of their legal needs. Within the national practice group we have a team of partners and lawyers who have market-leading expertise in all aspects of health law and policy including assisting health practitioners and public and private health facilities in civil claims, disciplinary proceedings and coronial inquests and providing advice on regulatory and compliance issues such as clinical governance, privacy, Medicare and ethics. Our team also has extensive experience with advising on clinical protocols, medical practice management and industrial relations as well as providing corporate and commercial advice to health industry participants.

As part of our focus on the health industry, our bulletin addresses a range of topics designed to provide you with an insight into legal and other developments across the nation.

The viral spread of defamatory online reviews: what can doctors do?

At the time of preparing this article, it seems somewhat strange and even trivial to be thinking, let alone writing, about anything other than the rapid and virulent worldwide spread of coronavirus. Well before this year, however, the online world was already well accustomed to the spread of other so-called “viral” content

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Changes to mandatory reporting obligations for treating doctors

The mandatory reporting requirements provided for by the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law were amended from 1 March 2020.

The amendments have been introduced with a goal of encouraging health practitioners, registered under the National Law, to have the confidence to seek treatment for health conditions, while also providing protection from harm for the public.

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Public feedback welcome on national standards for digital mental health services

Digital mental health services have seen significant growth in Australia over the past decade.

In response to this growing demand, and in an attempt to offer new and innovative ways for consumers and carers to access services they require, the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care has prepared draft National Safety and Quality Digital Mental Health Standards.

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CAUSATION: Could they really have taken a different course if they had known?

The ACT Court of Appeal finds against plaintiffs who failed to establish that they could have terminated a pregnancy at 30 weeks had they known of the baby’s medical condition.

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Storage of health records

In South Australia, there is no dedicated legislation with respect to the storage and retention of public or private medical records.

Instead, it is necessary to look to an interplay of legislation which effects the storage and retention of medical records in particular circumstances.

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Findings of the inquest into the death of Maria Aurelia Willersdorf

On 24 January 2020, Queensland State Coroner James McDougall handed down his findings following an inquest into the death of Maria Willersdorf, an 87 year old woman who died after a seemingly straightforward steroid injection procedure.

The deceased had a longstanding history of chronic back pain as a result of spinal osteoarthritis and in late March 2015, presented to her General Practitioner due to escalating back pain.

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Conscientious objection and the Religious Freedom Bills

This piece summarises the changes proposed by the Religious Freedom Bills (Religious Discrimination Bill 2019, Religious Discrimination (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2019, Human Rights Legislation Amendment (Freedom of Religious Bill) 2019) in the context of conscientious objections by health practitioners. It also addresses the current position regarding conscientious objections and the potential impact of the proposed provisions.

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Industry focus: legal considerations for medical technology businesses

Advances in computing technology have paved the way for significant changes within the medical technology sector. Medtech businesses are now developing medical devices and technologies that are no longer limited to being the traditional aid for a physician, and now include enhanced and more responsive functionalities which allow them to have a more involved role in health and patient care.

Such growth in the industry should come with a greater proactivity and understanding of the legal frameworks and considerations which underpin it. The following provides a summary of the key legal considerations which should be taken into account by medtech businesses.

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Counting steps or saving lives: is your software a medical device?

With the increased prevalence of software aimed at improving our day to day health, diagnosing illnesses and treating medical conditions, there has been a recent focus on developing regulations to address new types of medical devices.

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Should Paddy Play? The potential liability of sporting clubs and their health professionals for concussion injury

Many sporting fans complying with current pandemic restrictions will be acutely aware of the lack of televised sporting events to occupy their evenings. A silver lining of the enforced layoff is the opportunity for many star athletes to focus on rehabilitation. One such athlete is former St Kilda Football Club prospect Paddy McCartin, who is looking to regain fitness in the hope of a return to the game.The young player parted ways with the team following a string of concussions but has nonetheless followed a rehabilitation program and has stated ‘the doctors have told me I don’t have any greater risk than any other player on an AFL list when I go out and play footy [in terms of] getting concussion. While his enthusiasm is admirable, his comment might pique the interest of those concerned with the potential liabilities around letting players with such histories return to regular play.

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