In early 1960s, R. Dierkens from the Faculty of Law at the Ghent State University focused his study on multicultural issues related to Medical Law. His vision was to establish a professional association where medical and legal professionals devote their studies to the new discipline. He received the support of Dr. L. De Vos (forensic Pathologist, Ghent, Belgium) and Professor F. Thomas (Professor of Legal Medicine, Medical Faculty of the Ghent State University, and leading expert in legal medicine internationally and founder of the International association of Forensic Sciences).
The World Association for Medical Law was established in 1967 at its center in the University of Gent in Belgium. Ever since, its main purposes and objectives have been: to encourage the study and discussion of problems concerning medical law, and their possible solution in ways that are beneficial to humanity; to promote the study of the consequences of new developments in medicine and related sciences; to address any matters that involve issues of medical and health law; to provide political leadership and advocacy for the medical law professionals, and to encourage research and development in medical law and related fields.
The Association has been pursuing its purposes by, inter alia, organizing a World Congress on Medical Law at two-year intervals, encouraging regional congresses on Medical Law, supporting National Associations for Medical Law, and promoting their affiliation to the association. However, according to decision by Board of Governors, The World Association for Medical Law is organizing now a two-year interval International Congress; thus, WAML official activities are based now upon a one-year interval; International Congress in odd year and World Congress in even years.
The World Association for Medical LAW makes arrangements for consultation and cooperation with international and national organizations and also sponsors institutes or centers concerned with particular areas of Medical Law or Health Law.
WAML membership is open to persons who have graduated from a university or equivalent institution and who are interested in the fulfillment of the purposes of the Association; in return, members may benefits from The Association in several ways. The Board of Governors officially grants this membership. But membership is not just based upon individuals but also in national o regional associations. National and other associations and centers active in the field of Medical Law may be affiliated to the Association by decision of the Board of Governors. The Secretary General maintains a register of affiliations.
The Association produces as its official, international, quarterly Journal. Members receive this journal as part of their membership fees.
Members of the WAML meet every two years at biennial conferences. The First World Congress began with very impressive opening ceremony, attended by several hundreds of enthusiastic delegates and attendees from all over the World. The scientific program covered current topics of medical law, ethics, and legal medicine. This format of the First World Congress became the tradition of the WAML World Congress. The Second World Congress was held in Washington, D.C. (USA) in 1970, the Fourth World Congress was held in Manila, (The Philippines) in 1976, the 8th Congress in Prague (then CSSR) in 1988, and others were held all in Ghent until 1991.
Since 1994, the congresses were held biennially in Israel (1994), South Africa (1996), Hungary (1998), Finland (2000), the Netherlands (2002), Australia (2004), France (2006), China (2008) and Croatia (2010). The next World Congress for Medical Law will be held in Brasil.
Prof. Eg Spanoghe (Belgium) was the First President of the World Association. Judge C. Hadding (Sweden) was elected President in 1982. Judge Amnon Carmi (Israel) became and served as President of the World Association 1991-2010. Prof. Thomas Noguchi (USA) has served as President sice 2010.
The founder, Prof. R. Dierkens served as Secretary General for last 35 years, and after an excellent work and service to WAML, he received the highest ever recognition of the Association: the Dierkens Medallion (named after his own name) rewarded to him during Maastrich Congress (2002). During meeting of Board of Governors in Sidney, Australia, 2004, he received the title of Honorary Secretary General and Founder.
On 2004, Prof. Rafael Aguiar-Guevara (Venezuela) was elected as Secretary General of the Association and served in this position for two consecutive periods until October 2008, During his cadence, the WAML website has been upgraded and enriched due to his continuing efforts.
On October 2008, Prof. Roy Beran (Australia) was elected Secretary General.
A Board of Governors, as organ of WAML, governs the World Association. They are representatives, each from a different country and chosen during the general assemblies of the congresses.
The Council of Presidents was created to strengthen international communication and to provide collaborative support and foster affiliation with existing national societies in medical law and related disciplines. The membership of the Council consists of the presidents or designated representatives of the affiliated national associations and societies. The Chairman since October 2008 is Adv. Jonathan Davies from Israel.