Medical Care

Medical Care in the United States

Introduction to Medical Care

Medicare and Medicaid, programs of medical care for the aged and for the needy, respectively, in the United States. The Medicare and Medicaid programs are under the direction of the United States Department of Health and Human Services.” (1)

Medical Legal Materials

Most law libraries have at least a few medical materials. If the collections available to you don’t have what you need, the following sources might help you get it.

  • Article Indexes
  • Dictionaries
  • Document Delivery and Full-Text Databases
  • General Medical Information
  • Images
  • Lending Libraries
  • Medical Records
  • Online Catalogs
  • Surgeon General

Article Indexes

Medline is generally considered the best general index of medical articles. Medline is available for free on the PubMed Web site and through the National Library of Medicine Gateway. Generally, the NIH site provides better searching (if you click on the Preview/Index link), while the NLM Gateway includes other useful databases. For the best flexible searching, use the Medline version in the Lexis GENMED library or Westlaw (MEDLINE; or use MEDLINE90 to search from just 1990 to the present). For more information on Medline, including other free versions, see Researching Medical Literature on the Internet by Gloria Miccioli.

Other online medical article indexes include EMBASE (on Lexis), AIDSline and Toxline, both free through Medscape and CANCERLIT, free through CancerNet and PsychARTICLES Direct. ProQuest Dialog has searchable medical databases; call their customer service for the most recent information (800-334-2564).

For a quick but not thorough search, try Google Scholar.

(If you find articles you want, the discussion of Document Delivery sources below might help you get them. Alternatively, you might want to search the online sources for full-text materials first, rather than bothering with articles indexes at all.)

2. Dictionaries

There are many good medical dictionaries, including Steadman’s Medical Dictionary, the Gould Medical Dictionary, The Sloan-Dorland and, for legal purposes, theAttorney’s Dictionary of Medicine. For less esoteric terms, the American Jurisprudence 2nd Desk Book includes glossaries of Medical, Dental and Pathology terms.

Steadman’s is available on Westlaw (STEADMANS); the Attorney’s Dictionary of Medicine is on Lexis (MATBEN;DICMED). For free, you can search MEDLINEplusDorland’s Illustrated Medical Dictionary and an abridged Steadman’s.

Though not a dictionary, The Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy is a good source for quick, basic medical information. It’s posted free on the Merck Web site, along with The Merck Manual of Medical Information (Home Edition) and The Merck Manual of Geriatrics.

3. Document Delivery and Full-Text Databases

Many medical journals post articles online. I generally find them using Google or another search engine. Most are either free allow you to purchase individual articles. Links to free medical journals are posted at

There are also many online databases with full-text medical materials, including:

  • PubMed Central posts a large collection of free journal articles. In addition, you can order the full text of any article you find when searching Medline through Many articles can be downloaded right away through various sources, for others you have to wait;
  • Medscape posts thousands of recent articles, available for free to anyone who registers;
  • Google Scholar;
  • Ingenta;
  • Infotrieve;
  • ScienceDirect, which provides articles from ReedElsivier journals;
  • Lexis (in the GENMED library);
  • Westlaw;
  • ProQuest Dialog;
  • The Electronic Online Collection database on OCLC’s FirstSearch;
  • Ovid;
  • Scopus (includes Science Direct, Embase, etc.);
  • EBSCO;
  • PLoS.

The most comprehensive collections are probably PubMed (because it uses the National Library of Medicine collection), the Electronic Collections Online and Ovid.

For copies of articles, book chapters, etc., that are not available online, the following libraries have good medical collections and document delivery services:

For other sources, call local medical schools and/or search OCLC’s WorldCat.

4. General Medical Information

If you are looking to find general but reliable and useful information on a medical condition, I recommend the Encyclopedia and search box on MEDLINEplus. Another free resource: Epocrates Online.

The International Classification of Diseases (ICD) is posted back to 1893 with a decoder. The current ICD-9, ICD-9-M, ICD-10 and ICD-10-M are all posted in the Classification of Diseases, Functioning, and Disability section of the CDC web site. The ICDs (and additional explanatory materials) can be purchase in book format from the Coding & Reimbursement section of the AMA Bookstore or from Decision Health or another vendor.

5. Images

Links to collections of medical images are posted by the libraries at the Wake Forest School of Medicine and the NYU Medical School. For additional sources see the “Dictionaries” section of this entry, the separate entry for “Anatomy” and/or Gloria Miccioli’s Researching Medical Literature on the Internet.

6. Lending Libraries

Most large academic medical libraries will lend books to other libraries, including law libraries. I believe the Linda Hall Library will too. Also, law libraries can generally become members of the regional branch of the National Library of Medicine.

Rather than waste your time cold calling these libraries, it’s generally best to use the Online Catalogs discussed above to find libraries that hold the materials you want to borrow.

7. Medical Records

You can order medical records directly from any medical facility, assuming you are entitled to the records under HIPAA and the other medical records privacy laws. You can also order medical records through LexisNexis Medical Records Retrieval or another retrieval service.

8. Online Catalogs

To find medical treatises, reports, etc., on a particular topic – or by a particular author – search the online catalogs of the National Library of Medicine, the New York Academy of Medicine, the Linda Hall Library or another good medical library, especially one that you know will lend to you. You’ll find an excellent collection of links to other medical libraries posted by the National Library of Medicine.

You can use OCLC’s WorldCat to locate books, or to find libraries that hold the books you want.

9. Surgeon General Reports

Reports of the U.S. Surgeon General are posted by the National Library of Medicine .

Medical Devices

Description of legal materials on Medical Devices are available here.

Medicare and Medicaid

Most of the relevant legal materials are compiled in CCH Medicare and Medicaid Guide, available as a multi-volume looseleaf and as an online subscription through Intelliconnect. Lots of information is posted by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, formerly the Health Care Financing Association (HCFA).

Advance Directives for Medical and Psychiatric Care

This section discusses generally the subject of Advance Directives for Medical and Psychiatric Care, how to determine the facts essential to Advance Directives for Medical and Psychiatric Care, and, to some extent, how to prove it in litigation and defense. Related topics are also addressed.


See Also

Current Procedural Terminology (CPT) Codes
Medical Devices
Medical Ethics
Product Reviews and Related Information

Notes and References

Guide to Medical Care

About U.S. Federal Departments

Federal Departments, Department of Agriculture, Department of Commerce, Department of Defense (including Department of Defense Purpose, Department of Defense Organization, Department of Defense Liaison of Command and Department of Defense Supporting Agencies), Department of Education, Department of Energy

(including Department of Energy Purpose, Department of Energy Organization and Department of Energy Research and Development), Department of Health and Human Services (including Department of Health and Human Services History and Department of Health and Human Services Agencies and Services), Department of Homeland Security (including Department of Homeland Security Organization and Functions, Department of Homeland Security Origins and Department of Homeland Security Supporting Agencies), Department of Housing and Urban Development, Department of Justice (including Department of Justice Functions, Department of Justice Structure and Department of Justice Associated Agencies), Department of Labor, Department of National Defence, Department of State (including Department of State Administration and Department of State Bureaus), Department of the Air Force, Department of the Army, Department of the Interior (including Department of the Interior Functions and Department of the Interior Principal Agencies), Department of the Navy, Department of the Treasury, Department of Transportation, Department of Veterans Affairs (including the Department of Veterans Affairs Service Categories, Department of Veterans Affairs Benefits Available and GI Bill of Rights) and Department of War.

Medical Care: Open and Free Legal Research of US Law

Federal Primary Materials

The U.S. federal government system consists of executive, legislative, and judicial branches, each of which creates information that can be the subject of legal research about Medical Care. This part provides references, in relation to Medical Care, to the legislative process, the federal judiciary, and the primary sources of federal law (cases, statutes, and regulations).

Federal primary materials about Medical Care by content types:

Laws and Regulations

US Constitution
Federal Statutory Codes and Legislation

Federal Case Law and Court Materials

U.S. Courts of Appeals
United States courts of appeals, inclouding bankruptcy courts and bankcruptcy appellate panels:

Federal Administrative Materials and Resources

Presidential Materials

Materials that emanate from the President’s lawmaking function include executive orders for officers in departments and agencies and proclamations for announcing ceremonial or commemorative policies. Presidential materials available include:

Executive Materials

Federal Legislative History Materials

Legislative history traces the legislative process of a particular bill (about Medical Care and other subjects) for the main purpose of determining the legislators’ intent behind the enactment of a law to explain or clarify ambiguities in the language or the perceived meaning of that law (about Medical Care or other topics), or locating the current status of a bill and monitoring its progress.

State Administrative Materials and Resources

State regulations are rules and procedures promulgated by state agencies (which may apply to Medical Care and other topics); they are a binding source of law. In addition to promulgating regulations, state administrative boards and agencies often have judicial or quasi-judicial authority and may issue administrative decisions affecting Medical Care. Finding these decisions can be challenging. In many cases, researchers about Medical Care should check state agency web sites for their regulations, decisions, forms, and other information of interest.

State rules and regulations are found in codes of regulations and administrative codes (official compilation of all rules and regulations, organized by subject matter). Search here:

State opinions of the Attorney General (official written advisory opinions on issues of state law related to Medical Care when formerly requested by a designated government officer):

Tools and Forms

Law in Other Regions

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