Gwybodaeth Modiwlau

Module Identifier
Module Title
Medicine, Ethics and Law
Academic Year
Semester 2
LA36030 or GF36030
GF10110/LA10110 or LA14230/GF14230 or LA14720/GF14720 GF30110/LA30110 or LA34230/GF34230 or LA34720/GF34720 or LA15710
Other Staff

Course Delivery

Delivery Type Delivery length / details
Lecture 10 x 2 Hour Lectures
Lecture 10 x 1 Hour Lectures
Seminar 3 x 2 Hour Seminars


Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Exam 2 Hours   Exam  Candidates are not permitted to bring any books, notes or any other materials into the examination.  100%
Supplementary Exam 2 Hours   Exam  Candidates are not permitted to bring any books, notes or any other materials into the examination.  100%

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this module students should be able to:

Students are expected to have developed an appreciation of the issues both in terms of their relevance to abstract philosophical concerns, scientific developments and social policy, and to practical legal principles and practice.

Intellectual Skills

1. Analytical skills
2. Problem solving
3. Constructing argument
4. Synthesis (ethics, law and medicine)
5. Assessing and interpreting evidence and source material (interdisciplinary)
6. Organisation of ideas
7. Critical evaluation of complex and conflicting argument and evidence
8. Understanding relevance and irrelevance (especially with regard to making students aware that their gut reaction to issues is largely irrelevant).

Brief description

This module considers the relationship between law and ethics dealing in detail with such issues as confidentiality, medical negligence, consent to medical treatment, resource allocation, euthanasia, assisted conception, abortion and mental health. Medical ethics has always been a subject of major concern to practitioners and these issues arise throughout medical practice. The most divisive and complex issues concerning medical ethics turn around questions of life and death which will be considered in depth through abortion, euthanasia and assisted conception. Issues of life and death are pervasive and increasingly become discussed not merely as philosophical medical and legal problems, but also as a resource issue. Medical care is a costly enterprise and choices must be made concerning priorities. On what basis should such decisions be made? These and other general ethical issues will form the basis of the course. They will then be developed in relation to particular issues. Those chosen are indicative of the most sensitive issues, they do not form an exhaustive list. The intention of the course is to introduce these dilemmas and consider and evaluate their legal, ethical and practical implications.

People are today living longer, often due to advancements in medical science, yet this increased life expectancy may not always be considered a blessing. Should a patient be allowed to choose to die? In what circumstances will the law protect the respective rights of a pregnant woman and her foetus? A number of cases highlight the extent to which the medical profession is confronted with such issues.

Medicine is an imprecise science and calls for a clinical judgement. To what extent should society penalise doctors for their mistakes? An over-punitive legal regime can lead doctors to exercise too much caution and can lead to defensive medicine. However, too lax a regime creates the impression that doctors are a law unto themselves. How should medicine be regulated?

Patients who are mentally incompetent will need particular care. They can neither agree to, nor refuse treatment. The court's power to intervene is ambiguous in the case of an adult and the next-of-kin can do no more than express an opinion. The Mental Capacity Act 2005 declares that the doctor would not be acting unlawfully if she or he acts in their patients "best interests". Who should decide what is in their best interests? Has this legislation improved the plight of those who lack capacity?

It is estimated that one in six couples is infertile. There are many forms of treatment for infertility, each one posing very difficult ethical questions. Do people have a right to a child? Who should be eligible for treatment? To what extent should we be able to determine the sex of a child or his or her genetic composition?

The module will give recognition to the split between self regulation by the medical profession and the potential need for external regulation whether by law or other means. The difficulties raised in attempting to reconcile the ethical dilemmas of medical practice with the prescriptive approach of the law will be highlighted.


This module aims to provide students with a sound foundation in the legal principles and philosophical questions underlying medico-legal decision making in the courts and related forums.


Topics covered will include some of the following:

  • Introduction to Ethics
  • Medical Negligence
  • Medical Records and Confidentiality
  • Provision of Healthcare in the NHS
  • Consent
  • Abortion and neonates
  • Euthanasia
  • Assisted Conception
  • Cloning
  • Mental Health


This module is at CQFW Level 6