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A new dawn in scholarship in Medical Law and Ethics in Zambia

“Mujajati and Chirwa on Medical Law & Ethics in Zambia” is a landmark first and so far only book on the Zambian market on the subject matter of medicine and law. Written by Dr. Aaron Mujajati, a Medical Doctor and Mr Joseph Chirwa, a lecturer of Law at the University of Lusaka’s School of Law, this new book will be the first port of call and reference book for new medical and law students, old and new medical doctors, lecturers in medicine and law teachers of tort and criminal law, new and veteran lawyers in the Tort Bar should one exist as it does in most countries in the world; medical professional regulators and the judiciary.

This book is about how the practice of medicine intersects with medical ethics and the law regulating or impacting on the practice of medicine.

Scanning the extensive bibliography at the end of the book demonstrates that this is the first book in Zambia on the subject of Medicine and Law. It means that for the past 55 years, since Zambia’s independence in 1964, medical regulators and the judiciary were consulting mainly foreign sources and precedents in their decisions on medical conduct and ethics cases. Foreign sources and literature on Medical Law and Ethics will continue to adorn our bookstore shelves, libraries and offices of our lecturers, lawyers and judges. Thus this new kid on the block is a very welcome local addition to the foreign dominated family in Medical Law and Ethics.

The importance of this new book is captured in the writing on the outer back cover thus, “…reference material to spark the interest in the field which has somewhat been ignored. The mushrooming of teaching institutions that are establishing health-related courses calls for literature and reference material that can enlighten the health practitioner, student and members of the public on the various obligations that each has”. In his Foreword to the book, Professor Chifwanakeni, Vice Chancellor of the University of Lusaka applauds the combined efforts of the Medical Doctor and the Law Lecturer in producing this book.

The usefulness of the book first and foremost is that this is a reference book and thus the beginning of research, teaching and practice: it has a list of all relevant legislation, up to date list of relevant medical-legal cases, an appendix of primary documents, including the most important of them all, the Medical Code of Ethics and finally, a comprehensive bibliography. Dr Mujajati, who has taught medical ethics at the University of Zambia for years and has held the post of Registrar and Chief Executive Officer of the Health Professions Council of Zambia (HPCZ) (the regulatory body of health professionals) has ensured that useful materials from the medical angle are put together. On the legal side, Mr Joseph Chirwa, an Advocate of the High Court of Zambia and a lecturer in law with specialisation in criminal law and procedure, among others, has assembled relevant legal information and case law. This joint effort of different disciplines is welcome and must be encouraged.

Chapter one deals with “Sources of Medical Law and Ethics in Zambia”, Chapter two is entitled, ”Ethics and Medicine”, Chapter three, “The Regulation of the Medical Profession”, Chapter four is, “Medical Liability”, Chapter five, “Relationships with Clients”, Chapter six, “Intentional Torts”, Chapter Seven is, “Defences to Claims of Liability”, chapter eight, “The Legal Environment of the Medical Practitioner in Zambia”, Chapter nine, “Challenges and Dilemmas in Medical Ethics” and lastly Chapter ten dealing with “Important Issues in Medical Practice”. The book is a dynamic short presentation in 141 pages whose chapter titles speak for themselves and the subject matters in each chapter are heavily footnoted for easy of reference and follow up studies.

The practice of medicine is a heavily legally litigated area and justifiably so as it involves life and death of individuals if proper training, conduct, ethics and standards are not legally enforced. This book guides all stakeholders in what is involved in the practice of medicine and the legal liabilities that may arise in the promotion of the health and safety of individuals.

The practice of medicine requires the existence of a strong Tort Bar to assist and protect doctors who face “Medical Liability” (chapter 4) by providing “Defences to Claims of Liability” (Chapter 7). I found these two chapters the core and spine of the book, without relegating everything that holds the book together, to secondary tier.

This book is also highly recommended for the general reader who is not in the medical or law fields as it provides useful information about the critical area of the intersection of medicine and law. Ultimately, everybody is affected by the practice of medicine as well as law since everybody gets sick or knows a relative who falls sick and is impacted by the medical and legal issues that inevitably arise. Solid information as presented in this book may caution one from rushing to sue a medical doctor who operates under difficult conditions and has to make split second decisions to save a life. Then there are the ethical and legal envelops within which medicine has to be practiced for the health, safety and protection of the public.

This is a paradigm shifting book and I recommend it be available to all medical and law students, medicine and law lecturers, lawyers, doctors and judges. Any claim that there is no medical or legal scholarship or that it is declining, is no longer valid. The challenge now, whether there is medical and legal readership of emerging medical and legal scholarship.

Dr Munyonzwe Hamalengwa teaches among others, “Research Methodologies and writing in Law” in Law School.

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