Health note topic?
September 11, 2011 4:00 PM   Subscribe

I need to write my law school note on a health law issue. Do you have any suggestions for a timely or interesting topic?

I'm on the health journal at my law school, so I'm required to write my note about a health-related issue. I can't think of any topic that I'm especially interested in, so I'd love to hear your suggestions.

Thanks!
posted by AAAAAThatsFiveAs to Law & Government (28 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
Dialysis and (secondarily) renal preventative care / treatment generally, including post-transplant care. It's a HUGE spending issue on the federal Medicare context and the state and federal Medicaid context, as well as a continuing source of friction between insurers and insured. It's bound up with big quality of life issues and keeping people off dialysis through lifestyle intervention or with transplants presents opportunities for reductions in long-term healthcare spending even though the upfront costs to run a successful screening program or fund transplant surgeries and post-operative drug regimens can look prohibitive in a time of budget crunches.

/disclaimer - kidney transplant recipient, lawyer, former intern for a renal healthcare advocacy and education organization

Or, if you're a glutton for punishment, I guess you could always do something circumcision-related.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 4:08 PM on September 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


Have there been any stories about organ harvesting lately? Selling bone and skin grafts for profit? Anything like that? I know there was something in the news back in...2006? I think? Some mortician falsified some death records and harvested out the still-viable parts of a body to some for-profit company that deals in body grafts. Something like that. It was kind of a big deal...they even made an episode of CSI (and maybe one of Bones, too) about it.

Some medical schools even buy parts of cadavers piecemeal so their students can specifically study, say, the anatomy of the hand without "wasting" a whole cadaver.

There are sure to be legal issues with those.

And, if you want to get into it, the history of the body trade is really seedy and interesting. I wrote my BA thesis on it (specifically in 1800s-ish Britain), and I'd be happy to point you to some sources if you want. (Google "Burke and Hare" to get a general idea.) Britain even made a law back around 1750 that stipulated that murderers would be hanged and dissected by med students as punishment (because people got hanged for everything back in those days, and a regular old hanging wasn't punishment enough).
posted by phunniemee at 4:12 PM on September 11, 2011


How about ongoing litigation to legalize compensation for bone marrow donors?
posted by decathecting at 4:12 PM on September 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ooh, or gene patenting.

Or, the Supreme Court is hearing a case this term about patenting medical blood test processing. Lots of good stuff.
posted by decathecting at 4:15 PM on September 11, 2011


Privacy and security of electronic health records. This is a huge issue.
posted by k8lin at 4:16 PM on September 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Mental illness, "insight," and when and how mentally ill patients are allowed to determine their own care?
posted by liketitanic at 4:18 PM on September 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


HIV criminalization. Rep. Barbara Lee just introduced a bill on it.
posted by gingerbeer at 4:20 PM on September 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


Regulation of dietary supplements.
posted by Wordwoman at 4:24 PM on September 11, 2011


There are also loads of drug policy issues, if that floats your boat. Suspicionless student drug testing. Sterile syringe access for HIV and hepatitis C prevention. Overdose -- 911 Good Samaritan laws in particular. The impact of criminalizing drug users on HIV transmission (e.g. Vienna Declaration). Treatment instead of incarceration.
posted by gingerbeer at 4:24 PM on September 11, 2011


How about a survey of involuntary sterilizations of women in mental institutions in the DC area, and how it did or did not become illegal.
posted by jamjam at 4:32 PM on September 11, 2011


Potential conflicts created when states permit medical marijuana use but it's still outlawed by federal law? This also has implications for the workplace, ie, a doctor prescribes marijuana for treatment but the employer has a no drug policy. Must the employer accommodate the marijuana use? The Washington Supreme Court decided a case on that issue this year, although no doubt a lot of people are already on top of that one.
posted by MoonOrb at 4:33 PM on September 11, 2011


In California, the Assembly has proposed a law that would allow vaccination of minors over 12 years of age without parental consent (AB499). The vaccinations in question are related to STDs (Gardisil and HepB so far).
posted by quince at 4:58 PM on September 11, 2011


Federal (State if they exist, I haven't looked) regulations about food safety, requirements based on size of business/type of food, particularly for meat. Food and public health are huge issues that tend to go unnoticed until a food recall. Lots to explore there, with the benefit of being relevant to most of the population.
posted by Strudel at 4:58 PM on September 11, 2011


Federal (State if they exist, I haven't looked) regulations about food safety

Similarly, regulations on food marketing to children.
posted by orangejenny at 5:10 PM on September 11, 2011


Legal issues regarding the right wing paranoia issue that lawmakers can regulate what food we eat, particularly fast food and/or food with saturated/trans fats.

Sub issues include what has been done so far (prevention of new fast food franchises); public reaction / outcomes of similar regulations; legal history on limitation of food types for consumption (i.e foie gras, raw milk and margarine); school lunch regulation; it's a broad topic.
posted by jabberjaw at 5:12 PM on September 11, 2011


Continuing the food safety thing, and because they seem to be the new cupcakes, what about the regulation/licensing of food trucks?
posted by timsteil at 5:57 PM on September 11, 2011


The conflict between state laws on marijuana and federal law has already been mentioned. One angle on the conflict is federal public housing where people can get kicked out for using marijuana even if they have a legal (from the state) prescription. That's what HUD says anyway.
posted by Xalf at 6:06 PM on September 11, 2011


If you're interested in a mental illness + civil rights topic, memail me.
posted by prefpara at 6:15 PM on September 11, 2011


Medicare reimbursement is increasingly tied to national database reporting of particular health conditions that can be acquired in-patient at a hospital. They started a project in 2010 and they're rolling it out slowly (one new condition per year.) However, some states wrote their patient privacy laws in the 1990s-early 2000s in such a way that submitting aggregate data to the feds is impossible. I can give you more details by me-mail, although it's a really, really dry topic.
posted by cobaltnine at 6:32 PM on September 11, 2011


The gene patenting cases going on right now are pretty fascinating; the Genomics Law Report has some good blog coverage.
posted by deludingmyself at 6:35 PM on September 11, 2011


The Public Health Law Research web site may have useful resources and ideas.
posted by gingerbeer at 6:51 PM on September 11, 2011


How about assisted suicide/right-to-die issues?
posted by just_ducky at 7:34 PM on September 11, 2011


I came here to suggest the exact same topic as Inspector.Gadget: dialysis and post-transplant renal care and funding under Medicare/Medicaid. Currently, the law says that everyone with renal failure is eligible for Medicare upon starting dialysis or receiving a transplant. However, there are time limits on how long Medicare will pay for those treatments. For instance, I'm pretty sure that Medicare will cover the (extremely high) cost of post-transplant immunosuppressive medications for three years only. Such medications are necessary for the transplant to continue working, and with them, renal transplants can last 12, 15, 20, or even 30 years. Without them, transplants fail, sending the recipient back to dialysis, which Medicare will cover in full without time limit. For most patients, being on dialysis for a few years is significantly more expensive than the cost of the immunosuppressant cocktail.
posted by sleepinglion at 9:00 PM on September 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm on the health journal at my law school, so I'm required to write my note about a health-related issue. I can't think of any topic that I'm especially interested in, so I'd love to hear your suggestions.

If you're not that interested, why are you on the health law journal in the first place?

My idea of an interesting topic is the use of incarceration as an alternative to commitment since O'Connor v. Donaldson (422 U.S. 563). I'm fascinated by this result because of the conflict between the liberty interest and the general welfare; it's also one I think about on a regular basis because San Francisco (where I live) is both famously liberal and also awash in homeless people who are clearly incompetent and should probably be in care. There's a myth that Reagan pulled the plug on all the mental hospitals when he was governor of California to save money, but it's just something that happened while he was governor. However, it's an ongoing problem, both for non-dysfunctional people that avoid the open-air toilet that our civic center resembles and for the dysfunctional people who live in fear in poorly-trained police officers.

Admittedly, this is rather beyond the scope of a note. But at least it's more interesting than yet another paper on whether the insurance mandate is permissible or constitutes a poll tax. Please don't write about the damn mandate, or I shall be forced to commit some sort of tort.
posted by anigbrowl at 9:53 PM on September 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Possibly: topics related to the implementation of health care reform -- e.g. the prospects and possible outcomes of the constitutional challenges; how X will fare under health care reform. For me X would be health care for people with disabilities, but X could be lots of topics. The impacts of legal blocks to health care reform (e.g. what would aftermath be if, I don't know, one state or Circuit found the legislation unconstitutional in whole or in part, and other parts of the county started to implement, or if there were federal regulations promulgated blah blah).
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 10:39 PM on September 11, 2011


If you're not that interested, why are you on the health law journal in the first place?

It doesn't exactly work that way. When you apply to law review, typically all submissions are put into a pot with the submitter's preferences. You may get into law review, but not the one of your top choice.

For various reasons, being on a law review that does not interest you is better for you than not being on one at all. As with he practice of law, you are not necessarily able to choose your clients, but that doesn't change your obligation to perform your best for the ones you have no interest in.

Lastly, in order to have a successful Note, you have to submit on a topic that has never been briefed before, or a topic that has new flavor based on recent changes in law. You cannot recycle other people's arguments, which is difficult because there are a ton of law reviews out there. It sounds daunting, but it is a doable task.

Good luck.
posted by jabberjaw at 10:59 PM on September 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Lastly, in order to have a successful Note, you have to submit on a topic that has never been briefed before, or a topic that has new flavor based on recent changes in law. You cannot recycle other people's arguments, which is difficult because there are a ton of law reviews out there.

As someone who has edited and read a lot of law review notes, I can tell you this is absolutely not true. Many notes consist entirely of recycled discussions and arguments. I don't look very highly on that kind of note, but it's very common. In fact, this may improve the chances of your note being selected for publication, since the student editors may be more reassured by seeing arguments they've either seen before or can "verify" by checking the citations. Students are often simply not able to assess whether a novel argument is brilliant or implausible.

I don't have any topic suggestions for you, but try doing a Lexis or WestLaw search for references to a health-related "circuit split" that hasn't gotten to the Supreme Court yet. The ideal is to write about something that could go to the Supreme Court but hasn't gotten there and isn't about to. There is always a danger that you could start writing about something and then get "preempted" by a Supreme Court decision, though even after a relevant Supreme Court ruling there may still be open questions that merit a note. Once you have even some vague ideas for topics, there should be senior editors on your law review you can meet with to talk about narrowing down your topic. If you haven't already heard about doing this, ask your editor-in-chief who to talk to.
posted by John Cohen at 9:43 AM on September 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


As someone who has edited and read a lot of law review notes, I can tell you this is absolutely not true. Many notes consist entirely of recycled discussions and arguments.

Agreed. I said that inartfully. I think what I was trying to say is that successful notes and comments have something new-ish to say, meaning you should not recycle anybody else's thesis unless there some new consideration that modifies the thesis in some way. Notes rely heavily on support based on prior arguments. In fact, there is a good chance that nearly every line in your note should have a footnote cite reference.

But, yes, your Note & Comment (or correlated) Editors are there to help you solidify your topic and thesis. Rely on them.
posted by jabberjaw at 11:51 AM on September 13, 2011


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