This chapter is about the role of law in the creation and operation of Australian health systems. Accordingly, this chapter discusses how law regulates the way in which health services in Australia are funded, organised, regulated, managed, operated and governed. (The question of how health professionals are regulated is discussed in Chapter 15.) Although the focus of much of health law is on legal mechanisms for the resolution of disputes or disagreements between the state, health providers, professionals, patients and families and friends, and through dispute resolutions processes setting standards for practice, these are only some of the “jobs” that health law performs. In health systems where the state undertakes a significant role in regulating, funding, managing and providing health services, health law also performs an important constitutive function. Health law declares the values upon which the health system is based, shapes social processes to achieve public ends and provides a structure for the complex interactions that occur within a modern health system. Health law regulates decision-makers in health systems by establishing who has the power to participate in decisions and in what circumstances, establishing processes through which decisions are made and creating mechanisms for decision-makers to be held publicly accountable. It is this broader constitutive function of health law that is a primary focus of much of this chapter — how and why governments use their legislative powers to structure and shape the health system
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