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Study information

Medical Ethics and Law Foundations

Module titleMedical Ethics and Law Foundations
Module codeLAW3175
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.  It considers the ethical principles that underpin the law, including the concepts of autonomy, beneficence, non-maleficence and justice, and how those principles are applied in important areas such as confidentiality and informed consent.  The in-depth application of ethical principles is covered in Medical Ethics and Law.

Module aims - intentions of the module

The aim of this module is to provide a sound understanding of applied ethics in the medical context, and to understand how the law and ethical principles interact.  You will also understand how the law has evolved from a paternalistic model in the 20th Century to a patient-centred model in the modern day.  The course considers the implications of the current approach to ethical issues in medicine, considers some of the ethical dilemmas which may face medical practitioners and whether the law provides a satisfactory resolution of those dilemmas.

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. 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...

  • 4. 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;
  • 5. Apply legal and ethical knowledge to a problem and construct an argument supported by relevant principles and authorities.

ILO: Personal and key skills

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

  • 6. Communicate and engage in debate effectively and accurately, using communication methods appropriate to the discipline;
  • 7. Identify, retrieve and use efficiently a range of library-based and electronic resources (both legal and medical journals) with minimum guidance;
  • 8. 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

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 Activities2211 x 2 hour lectures
Scheduled Learning and Teaching Activities4.53 x 1.5 hour seminars
Guided Independent Study55Individual Reading and Lecture Preparation
Guided independent study18Workshop Preparation
Guided independent study10.5Formative Assessment Preparation
Guided Independent Study40Summative Assessment Preparation

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay1,000 words1-8Written 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
Essay1003,000 words1-8Written 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
EssayEssay (3000 words)1-8August/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)

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

Additional Reading:

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

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.

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date