PGCert Healthcare Law Postgraduate Certificate

Year of entry: 2022

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Course unit details:
Medicine, Law and Society

Course unit fact file
Unit code CSEP60962
Credit rating 15
Unit level FHEQ level 7 – master's degree or fourth year of an integrated master's degree
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Offered by Law
Available as a free choice unit? No


Medical law is an extremely dynamic area. Almost constantly, scientific, clinical and social developments push the boundaries of existing law. This course aims to engage students with a variety of topical and problematic issues. We hope to develop your understanding of the interrelationship between law, ethics and policy in a number of areas, examining how socio-political developments impact upon how society and the law responds to medico-ethical dilemmas. This course seeks to grapple with such issues as organ donation, public health, children and medicine, reproductive technologies, and end-of-life concerns, assessing how the law has responded to the various challenges which have arisen.

This first seminar aims to introduce the course unit as a whole and to promote reflection on how far consistent strands of policy and debate can be discerned in the manner in which English law has responded, and currently responds, to ethical, social and scientific dilemmas in modern medicine. The substance of legal principles and regulatory frameworks underpinning a range of questions about medicine today is extremely diverse. Legal debates around assisted dying, for example, appear to address different problems than discussion of regulatory controls involving biomedical research or organ transplantation. The nature and scope of texts differ. Students focusing on some of the topics covered in the course will need to engage with international, European and national law and regulation. Those who seek to examine ethical and legal issues involving human material will need to have recourse to legislation such as the Human Tissue Act 2004, codes of practice, and case law. Anyone examining the issue of assisted dying will need to become immersed in ethics reviews, human rights law, legislative proposals and case law. Underlying policy questions in relation to quality, safety and risk pervade all areas.

Key questions to be addressed in this course include:

(1) to what extent is law innovative or reactive in relation to health-related areas in which there are currently differing ethical and/or political viewpoints?

(2) what should law’s role be, if any, in this regard?


•      To gain an appreciation of topical and problematic medical law issues;

•      To facilitate students’ understanding of the interrelationship between law, ethics and policy in these areas in England and, if applicable, at international and European levels;

•      To develop students’ critical skills with regarding to analysing the rationale(s) for regulation and case law in the chosen topics;

•      To encourage students to develop their research skills.

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of this course unit students will be able to:

•      Identify the links between health care practice, law and the social context in which health care issues are raised in relation to chosen topics;

•      Apply legal concepts to health care dilemmas, building upon their work in Medico-Legal Problems, the core legal course unit in the MA/MSc degree programmes;

•      Critically assess the reasons for current policy and its outcomes in relation to chosen topics;

•      Provide oral and written presentations on the above issues.

Teaching and learning methods

Seminar workshops: 18 hours.  A significant amount of private study will also be required.

Assessment methods

This course unit will be assessed by one essay of 4,000 words. The provisional titles for the assessed coursework will be circulated by Session 6.The deadline for submission of assessed coursework will be announced shortly.

Recommended reading

Course Materials


Key textbook reading materials which will be used in this course are:

•      Brazier, M., & Cave, E. (2016) Medicine, Patients and the Law (6 ed) (Manchester University Press).

•      Laurie, G.T. et al. (2019) Mason & McCall Smith’s Law and Medical Ethics (11th ed) (Oxford: Oxford University Press).

There are several other textbooks that you may find helpful including:

Jackson, E. (2019) Medical Law: Text Cases and Materials (5th ed) (Oxford: Oxford University Press).

Herring, J. (2020) Medical Law and Ethics (8th Ed) (Oxford: Oxford University Press).

Academic Journals

There are two specialist medico-legal periodicals, the Medical Law Review and Medical Law International. Articles on medico-legal problems appear frequently in all the major law periodicals, as well as the Child and Family Law Quarterly and Professional Negligence. Students should also consult Medicine, Science and the Law, The Journal of Medical Ethics and Bioethics. These journals are available online via the Library. You may also find a number of U.S.-based journals helpful, such as the Journal of Law Medicine and Ethics and the Journal of Health Politics Policy and Law.

Seminar workshops - Reading Materials

Copies of individual seminar outlines, together with any other relevant material, will be posted on the Blackboard site for this course.

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Sarah Devaney Unit coordinator

Additional notes

Course Director:

Alex Mullock

Williamson 4.17

0161 275 0202


Sarah Devaney

Williamson 4.25

0161 275 3565

Caroline Hoyle

Williamson 2.13

0161 2757949




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