Indexed on: 26 Nov '10Published on: 26 Nov '10Published in: The Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics
Medical-legal partnerships (MLPs) - collaborative endeavors between health care clinicians and lawyers to more effectively address issues impacting health care - have proliferated over the past decade. The goal of this interdisciplinary approach is to improve the health outcomes and quality of life of patients and families, recognizing the many non-medical influences on health care and thus the value of an interdisciplinary team to enhance health. This article examines the unique, interrelated ethical issues that confront the clinical and legal partners involved in MLPs. We contend that the ethical precepts of the clinical and legal professions should be seen as opportunities, not barriers, to further the interdisciplinary nature of MLPs. The commonalities in ethical approaches represent a potential bridge between legal and health care advocacy for patient/client well-being. Bioethics has a role to play in building and analyzing this bridge: bioethics may serve as a discourse and method to enhance collaboration by highlighting common ethical foundations and refocusing legal and clinical partners on their similar goals of service for patients/clients. This article explores this bridging role of bioethics, through a series of case studies. It concludes with recommendations to strengthen the collaborations.