Module Identifier LA36720  
Academic Year 2003/2004  
Co-ordinator Ms Melanie L Williams  
Semester Semester 1  
Pre-Requisite LA10110 or LA30110 or LA15710  
Co-Requisite LA36030  
Course delivery Lecture   40 Hours Two one hour and one two hour lecture per week  
  Seminars / Tutorials   8 Hours Seminar. Four two hour seminars during the semester  
Assessment TypeAssessment Length/DetailsProportion
Semester Exam2 Hours Students are not allowed to take copies of statute books into the examination  66%
Semester Assessment Essay: Assessed Essay of 2000 words (required in week 9 in semester 1)  33%
Supplementary Assessment Resit: By retaking the failed element (ie written assignment or examination or both, as applicable)   
Professional Exemptions Not Required for Professional Purposes  

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module students should be able to:
Students are expected to develop 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).

As far as the subject/generic skills are concerned, we include them other than numerical.

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 have 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.

Patients 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 recent cases have highlighted 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 lead to defensive medicine. However, too lax a regime creates the impression that doctors are a law unto themselves.

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. Case law 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?

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


Abortion and neonates


Assisted Conception


Mental Health

Reading Lists

** Recommended Text
Montgomery Health Care Law
Mason & McCall Smith, Mennedy & Grubb Medical Law
Sheldon & Thomson Feminist Perspectives on Healthcare Law
Stauch, Wheat & Tingle Sourcebook on Medical Law
Gillon Philosophical Medical Ethics


This module is at CQFW Level 6