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New Law, Health and Society (LHS) research unit at Deakin Law School

Deakin Law School is thrilled to be launching Law, Health and Society (LHS), a new research unit leading the way with impactful, collaborative research in the ever-evolving field of health law.

Director of the Law, Health and Society research unit, Associate Professor Neera BhatiaAs a well-established health law scholar who has been researching in this area for over a decade, Associate Professor Neera Bhatia is passionate about the capacity of LHS to make a significant difference to societal wellbeing.

‘Health and healthcare are constantly evolving and the law tends to lag behind in terms of how we look at the ethical, legal and social implications of health, healthcare and the provision of health,’ Assoc. Prof. Bhatia explains.

‘I saw an obvious space for Deakin Law School to consolidate our research in health law, and the intersection between health, law, ethics and technology.’

Whether it’s a regular trip to the doctor or something more complex, every member of society is impacted by health and possible implications of the law.

‘Healthcare, and as a consequence health law, is likely to impact some aspect of your life and it’s therefore important as our ultimate human experience to have a better understanding of it,’ Assoc. Prof. Bhatia says.

‘LHS is in a really good position to be able to disseminate that research to the broader community.’

Victoria leading the way in health law

There’s a lot happening in the health law area within Victoria. For example, Victoria was the first state to pass voluntary assisted dying legislation – a dynamic and interesting area of law with changes occurring all the time.

‘One important thing about health law is we’re not just focused on the living, we’re also focused on death and dying and that’s where things like voluntary assisted dying are important,’ Assoc. Prof. Bhatia says.

Assoc. Prof. Bhatia says one example of a next step for voluntary assisted dying law is to look at implementing practices for organ donation after voluntary assisted dying: ‘We don’t want to just make sure people live well, but also that they can die well and die by making choices that suit them and choices that are informed and dignified choices.’

Assoc. Prof. Bhatia’s research is breaking down some of the taboos around death and dying and LHS can help to continue this ongoing dialogue both nationally and internationally.

‘Often issues that arise in health law are controversial and ethically or morally fraught,’ Assoc. Prof. Bhatia says. ‘They deserve our attention and critical lens.’

There is extensive need for regulation of contemporary health law issues and LHS health law scholars are covering a wide range of areas including regulation around supply of human breast milk and issues surrounding online sperm donation.

Other members of LHS are researching how to improve safer accessibility to health care, therapeutic goods regulation, the intersection of criminal law and mental health systems, the wellbeing of the queer community and public health.

‘All of these topics are dynamic in the sense that they’re not just about health, but they’re also about how society functions and how people function and how we get the best health and wellbeing for people and society,’ Assoc. Prof. Bhatia says.

Building momentum through societal impact

As the LHS unit at Deakin grows, so too will the societal impact. In addition to scholarly work the unit will produce, LHS will focus on disseminating important research widely and keeping an open dialogue with the community – the very people the research impacts.

‘We look at the impacts of health and health law on society and give back to society by talking to them about the impacts of health law and how it can improve their health and wellbeing,’ Assoc. Prof. Bhatia says.

Opportunities for international research collaborations will bring broader expertise, creating a thriving community of health law researchers that can make a global impact on different aspects of health regulation, technology, human rights, and other areas of law that intersect with health.

Assoc. Prof. Bhatia is looking forward to growing the capacity of LHS to address a broad range of issues through continued engagement with key health law and policy stakeholders.

‘My vision is to build a collective of international and national health law scholars leading to influential and important health law research that will impact the lives of many.’

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