The law in its relationship with sexual health nursing can at times make a confusing and frustrating bedfellow. There is often no right or wrong answer, no guidelines that are set in stone and no easy solution to the many dilemmas and challenges that face nurses within the sexual health setting. This chapter has explored the most common issues that arise in practice: consent and confidentiality. It is of course important to realise that there are many other aspects of law that influence the delivery of care.
As a practitioner in sexual health, facing up to the dilemmas and challenges of practice is something that one can only do satisfactorily when armed with a basic knowledge of legal, and in addition, ethical theory. There are many key texts specifically written for law and health care that will help one to develop and build a working legal knowledge base. It would be dangerous, however, to conclude that, merely by using the basic theories discussed here and in other key texts one could safely proceed to take autonomous decisions that involve legal matters in isolation. It is good practice to seek support from colleagues, management and, in the more complex issues, the national health legal support services.
The multitude of health-related cases that make the newspapers and television can be used and examined when we consider the future delivery of health care. At the time of writing this chapter there are a number of people now convicted of knowingly transmitting HIV, including the first woman to be convicted. As we shall see over the coming months and years, the development of case law will result in pressures to change and shape nursing practice, responding to the issues that arise for consenting clients and promising them confidentiality. As nurses in the provision of an ever-changing healthcare system, it will be important for us to acknowledge and overcome the many challenges and issues that come our way.
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