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Keywords:

  • ethical issues;
  • health care delivery;
  • consumer involvement;
  • legal aspects;
  • legal obligations

In a time of rapid change in the health care delivery system, health care professionals are challenged to fully understand their legal and ethical obligations for practice. The interface between law and ethics as it affects professional practice is complex and confusing. Three areas of legal and ethical interface and their associated history are explored: laws affecting scope of practice and the ethical obligation to provide access to care; laws affecting informed consent and the ethical obligation to respect autonomy; and laws limiting disclosure of personal identifiable information and the ethical obligation to protect privacy. A trend toward the use of statutes to protect and enforce patient rights has emerged, which has altered and limited professional practice.