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Study information

Medical Ethics and Law

Module titleMedical Ethics and Law
Module codeLAW3170
Academic year2023/4
Module staff

Dr Timon Hughes-Davies ()

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks



Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

This module will introduce you to some of the key ethical and legal concepts that apply in medical law and consider, in depth, how those concepts are applied in specific areas, such as abortion, assisted dying and mental health.  In Term 1, you will be introduced to the ethical principles that underpin the law, including the concepts of autonomy, beneficence, non-maleficence and justice, and how those principles are applied in a legal context in important areas such as confidentiality and informed consent.  In Term 2, you will examine some of the most important areas of medical ethics and law in depth, such as mental health law, the law and ethics of abortion and surrogacy and the law and ethics of assisted dying.

Module aims - intentions of the module

The aim of this module is to provide a sound understanding of applied ethics in the medical context, to understand how the law and ethical principles interact and to consider some of the key areas of medical law in more depth.  You will understand how the law has evolved from a paternalistic model in the 20th Century to a patient-centred model in the modern day.  In Term 2, you will consider some of the more contentious areas of medical ethics in a legal context in greater depth, and understand how different ethical approaches are applied to these questions.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Demonstrate comprehensive knowledge of the legal and ethical principles relevant to medical practice;
  • 2. Understand, critically reflect upon and evaluate the operation of the contemporary field of medical ethics within the legal and social context;
  • 3. Understand specific medical ethical and legal issues in depth;
  • 4. Synthesise and critically assess the content of legal and ethical norms.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 5. Demonstrate detailed and comprehensive knowledge and understanding of a range of legal and ethical concepts, values and principles and explain the relationships among them, and their limits;
  • 6. Apply legal and ethical knowledge to a problem and to construct an argument supported by relevant principles and authorities.

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 7. Communicate and engage in debate effectively and accurately, using communication methods appropriate to the discipline
  • 8. Identify, retrieve and use efficiently a range of resources (including both legal and medical journals) with minimum guidance;
  • 9. Work independently with minimal supervision and interact effectively within a team and learning group.

Syllabus plan

Whilst the module’s precise content may vary from year to year, it is envisaged that the syllabus will cover some or all of the following topics:

  • Introduction to health care provision
  • Ethical foundations
  • Confidentiality
  • Consent and mental capacity
  • Beginning of life
  • End of life
  • Mental Health and Capacity Law
  • Abortion and Surrogacy
  • Assisted Dying

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching Activities4422 x 2 hour lectures
Scheduled Learning and Teaching Activities96 x 1.5 hour seminars
Guided Independent Study110Individual Reading and Lecture Preparation
Guided independent study36Workshop Preparation
Guided independent study 21Formative Assessment preparation
Guided Independent study 80Summative Assessment Preparation

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay1,000 words1-9Written feedback, supplemented by group feedback and individual oral feedback on request.

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay 1503,000 words, to be submitted in Term 1.1-9Written feedback, supplemented by group feedback and individual oral feedback on request.
Essay 2503,000 words, to be submitted in Term 2.1-9Written feedback, supplemented by group feedback and individual oral feedback on request.

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Essay 1Essay (3,000 words)1-9August/September reassessment period
Essay 2Essay (3,000 words)1-9August/September reassessment period

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Basic reading:

Core text:

J Herring, Medical Law and Ethics, (5th edn, OUP 2016)


E Jackson, Medical Law, Text, Cases and Materials, (4th edn, OUP 2016)

Suggested supplementary reading:

J McHale and M Fox, Health Care Law: Text and Materials, (2nd edn, Sweet & Maxwell 2007)

GT Laurie, SHE Harmon and G Porter, Mason and McCall Smith’s Law and Medical Ethics,(10th edn, OUP 2016)

S Pattinson, Medical Law and Ethics, (3rd edn, Sweet & Maxwell 2011)

M Brazier and E Cave, Medicine, Patients and the Law, (6th edn, Manchester University Press 2016)

T Beauchamp and J Childress, Principles of Biomedical Ethics, (7th edn, OUP 2008)


Additional Reading:

P Singer, Practical Ethics (3rd edn, CUP, 2011)

C Foster, Choosing Life, Choosing Death, (Hart 2009)

C Foster, Human Dignity in Bioethics and Law (Hart 2011)

P Bartlett and R Sandland, Mental Health Law, Policy and Practice (4th edn OUP 2014)

In addition, chapters and journal articles as recommended for each teaching session. 

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Online databases, including LexisLibrary and Westlaw.

Key words search

Law, Medical Law, Ethics, Consent, Capacity, Confidentiality, Abortion, Surrogacy, Euthanasia, Assisted Dying, Mental Health, Mental Capacity.

Credit value30
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date