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Health law, governance and ethics

Exploring the links between health care, law, politics and ethics

We are building on two decades of excellence in health law through our strong focus on research, teaching and community engagement.

Our vision

We engage in, encourage and promote research at the cutting edge of health law, including health care law, public health law and governance, mental health law, and global health governance. Our interdisciplinary work investigates regulatory issues at the interface of health policy, bioethics and governance at national and global levels.

Our work

  • Professor Cameron Stewart looks at the regulation of consent, guardianship law and human tissue. Most recently he has led studies into biobanking and autologous stem cell therapy. He is particularly interested in the use of private law constructs (tort, contract and equity) in the regulation of health law.
  • Dr Belinda Reeve's is interested in the intersections between law, regulation and non-communicable disease prevention. She is exploring the legal and regulatory options for creating a healthier food environment, including through product reformulation initiatives, restrictions on food advertising to children, and innovative measures at local government level.
  • Profoessor Barbara McDonald is exploring: first, the impact of tort reforms on the fundamental elements of negligence actions, including in medical negligence actions, and the liability of multiple wrongdoers; and secondly, the developing law of privacy and equitable breach of confidence. Her work has been cited in the High Court of Australia and other appellate courts. 
  • Dr Sascha Callaghan is the lead researcher in the Sydney Neurolaw Lab which works closely with the University of Sydney's Brain and Mind Centre in teaching and research initiatives. She co-convened the multi-centre, international conference, Neuroscience & Society: Ethical, Legal & Clinical Implications of Neuroscience Research in September 2017 in collaboration with the Brain and Mind Centre, Monash and Macquarie Universities, and has established a partnership with Macquarie University on  the uniquely public resource, the Australian Neurolaw Database. Sascha has been invited to speak to the Judicial College of Australia on neuroscience in Australian courtrooms and regularly contributes to medical and legal professional training on issues related to capacity and consent, and mental health. Recent contributions include collaborations with Nepean Clinical School on training on "Birth trauma and intra partum consent", and the publication of a chapter on "Capacity and the right to refuse psychiatric treatment" in Capacity and the Law, Nick O’Neill and Carmelle Peisah (eds), Sydney University Press and Austlii, 2011. She has also contributed to numerous policy development initiatives by Australian governments including through a recent grant funded by the Queensland Mental Health Commission to investigate Human rights protection frameworks for people being treated involuntarily for a mental illness (2017-2019). 
  • Professor Peter Cashman has a long-standing research interest in public interest litigation, class actions and expert evidence. An experienced trial lawyer, he is the author of Class Action Law and Practice (Federation Press, 2007) and the forthcoming Practising Public Interest Law (Federation Press, 2017).
  • Professor Roger Magnusson's recent research focuses on the regulation of non-communicable diseases, including cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes and tobacco-related diseases and the capacity of law to regulate their risk factors. For example, his joint work with Dr Belinda Reeve has identified strategies for strength of salt, a risk factor for heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

Our impact

Or impact encompasses scholarly publications, contributions to policy, and engagement with international bodies including the World Health Organisation. Some recent examples include:

  • Professor Barbara McDonald’s work on privacy law led to her appointment as Commissioner leading the Australian Law Reform Commission inquiry into Serious Invasions of Privacy in the Digital Era
  • Dr Belinda Reeve co-convened the inaugural food governance conference in collaboration with the University of Sydney's Charles Perkins Centre. Building on this success, she co-established the food governance research node at the Charles Perkins Centre. The Food Governance Showcase, held on 3 November 2017, was co-hosted by Sydney Law School and the Charles Perkins Centre.
  • Professor Cameron Stewart's work on consent in human tissue has helped changed the way that consent is sought for cord blood donation. Cameron’s work on end-of-life decision-making can be seen in many of the NSW Ministry of Health’s guidelines and policy on advance care planning and end–of-life. He is also network director of the Network for Bodies, Organs and Tissues.
  • Professor Roger Magnusson was lead author of Advancing the right to health: the vital role of lawpublished by the World Health Organisation (2017). This report aims to raise awareness about the role that the reform of public health laws can play in advancing the right to health and in creating the conditions for people to live healthy lives.

Our experts