Grappling with Health Laws and Policies

Students help nonprofits navigate thorny issues

Illustration of a person pushing a syringe shaped like the column of a buildingIMAGE: Dan Bejar/Theispot

It happened at a California outpatient clinic. A physician met with a patient she had treated for years to review his medication regimen to prevent HIV infection. That's when he revealed an attraction to children.

Should the physician keep seeing the patient? Was she obligated to report him to authorities?

It's such a difficult spot for a doctor to be in," said Zachariah Robinson, JD (LAW '19), who encountered the quandary last spring before graduating from Case Western Reserve's School of Law.

Robinson was one of five students who plunged into real-world issues this past school year as participants in the school's Health Law & Policy Lab. They worked on behalf of clientsincluding physicians and hospitals and an advocacy groupto produce reports on health-related issues.

One student recommended best practices for certifying a patient's need for an emotional-support animal; another analyzed whether medical malpractice laws adequately address situations in which an "artificially intelligent" machine reads a mammogram inaccurately.

Robinson's project stemmed from the California incident, but it was posed by an Ohio hospital that wanted clear guidance on such issues. He scrutinized state laws and developed protocols for the hospital and its clinicians to help them analyze their options and minimize liability risks.

Anne Lederman Flamm, JD (LAW '95), an adjunct faculty member, directs the lab. She previously was an ethics consultant at Cleveland Clinic and The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. "If existing laws were clear, clients wouldn't need to raise the questions they bring to the lab," Flamm said. "The students need to craft, not simply relay, legal or policy positions supported by their research."

— Mark Oprea