Educating medical students about law and the legal system

Peter C. Williams, William Winslade

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


The study of jurisprudence-law, legal reasoning, and the legal system-has become progressively more common in medical school curricula. Familiarity with jurisprudence helps physicians practice medicine well, collaborate productively with lawyers, and be more effective in public discourse about health care delivery. Moreover, the study of jurisprudence can help physicians polish the methods and clarify the purposes common to law and medicine. Empirical studies over the last 30 years demonstrate patterns of change in the frequency and focus of jurisprudence teaching in medical school curricula that can guide contemporary efforts to devise or refine curricula in medical jurisprudence. The general goal of such curricula should be to enhance physicians’ clinical, institutional, and public effectiveness. These curricula should adhere to principles of sound pedagogy and be based on informed answers to the central questions of what should be taught, when, how, and by whom, and how the curriculum should be evaluated. Developing skills and changing attitudes are more important than imparting information about particular doctrines and laws. Curriculum planners should take into account the intellectual styles of the learners; integrate, not just coordinate, the new courses with the rest of the curriculum; build on features that medicine and law share and where they collaborate; and ensure intra- and inter- curricular coherence and continuity. Even though limitations of time, people, and money and differences in educational goals will influence what, when, and how medical jurisprudence is taught, the effort should be made if physicians are to be better empowered to use the law and their law colleagues to serve patients and promote public welfare.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)777-786
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of the Association of American Medical Colleges
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1995

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


Dive into the research topics of 'Educating medical students about law and the legal system'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this