Empirical Health Law Scholarship: The State of the Field

55 Pages Posted: 8 Jul 2009

See all articles by Michelle M. Mello

Michelle M. Mello

Stanford Law School; Department of Medicine

Kathryn Zeiler

Boston University - School of Law


The last three decades have seen the blossoming of the fields of health law and empirical legal studies and their intersection - empirical scholarship in health law and policy. Researchers in legal academia and other settings have conducted hundreds of studies using data to estimate the effects of health law on accident rates, health outcomes, health care utilization, and costs, as well as other outcome variables. Yet the emerging field of empirical health law faces significant challenges: practical, methodological, and political. The purpose of this Article is to survey the current state of the field by describing commonly used methods, analyzing enabling and inhibiting factors in the production and uptake of this type of research by policymakers, and suggesting ways to increase the production and impact of empirical health law studies. In some areas of inquiry, high-quality research has been conducted, and the findings have been successfully imported into policy debates and used to inform evidence-based lawmaking. In other areas, the level of rigor has been uneven, and the best evidence has not translated effectively into sound policy. Despite challenges and historical shortcomings, empirical health law studies can and should have a substantial impact on regulations designed to improve public safety, increase both access to and quality of health care, and foster technological innovation.

Keywords: empirical health law, health policy, empirical legal studies

Suggested Citation

Mello, Michelle M. and Zeiler, Kathryn, Empirical Health Law Scholarship: The State of the Field. Georgetown Law Journal, Vol. 96, p. 649, 2008, Georgetown Public Law Research Paper No. 10, Georgetown Law and Economics Research Paper No. 1430932, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1430932

Michelle M. Mello

Stanford Law School ( email )

559 Nathan Abbott Way
Stanford, CA 94305-8610
United States
650-725-3894 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://https://law.stanford.edu/directory/michelle-m-mello/

Department of Medicine ( email )

Center for Health Policy / PCOR
Encina Commons
Stanford, CA 94305
United States

HOME PAGE: http://https://profiles.stanford.edu/michelle-mello?tab=bio

Kathryn Zeiler (Contact Author)

Boston University - School of Law ( email )

765 Commonwealth Avenue
Boston, MA 02215
United States

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