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Unit information: Medicine and Law in 2015/16

Please note: you are viewing unit and programme information for a past academic year. Please see the current academic year for up to date information.

Unit name Medicine and Law
Unit code LAWD30004
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 4 (weeks 1-24)
Unit director Professor. Judy Laing
Open unit status Not open

None, other than those pre-requisites for undertaking study on the programme BSc (Hons) in Bioethics


None, other than those co-requisites for undertaking study on the programme BSc (Hons) in Bioethics.

School/department University of Bristol Law School
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences and Law


This unit provides an introduction to the general principles of Medical Law and a detailed study of specific topics within the field. General topics are:

  • medical ethics and medical law;
  • regulation of the medical profession;
  • dealing with medical mishaps;
  • consent to treatment (adults, children, mentally incompetent persons);
  • mental health;
  • confidentiality and access to records.

Specific topics, not all of which will be covered each year, are:

  • beginning of life (assisted conception: IVF/donor insemination/surrogacy; research on human embryos; contraception and abortion; wrongful birth and wrongful life; genetic screening and counselling; ante-natal duties of care);
  • medical research;
  • organ donation and transplantation;
  • end of life (definitions of death and dying; treatment of patients with serious/terminal illness; severely ill/handicapped new-borns; advance directives);
  • allocation of resources.

Sometimes, in fields characterised by rapid technical advances, there will be no law. In other areas, the law is being made and public opinion solicited. The students’ own (considered) views matter; an exchange of ideas is an essential component of the course. Often, lecturers and students will differ in their opinions. We fully expect this and hope it will lead to good discussion.

Intended learning outcomes

By the end of this unit a successful student will be able to:

  • Demonstrate a good understanding of the principles of Medical Law and the areas of medical ethics that relate to the law, and a facility in relating one to the other
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the relevant cases and statutes
  • Critically evaluate the question of what the law should be
  • State the law accurately
  • Apply legal principles to problem case scenarios
  • Relate the legal principles to that which they have learnt in their originating programme of study (e.g. MBChB Medicine) and clinical practice
  • Think critically about ways in which the law could be reformed, making appropriate reference to bioethical theories, concepts and approaches

This unit is also intended to improve benchmark skills – specifically IT skills, which are used in particular to find recent case law and other resources relating to all aspects of medical law.

In distinction to the unit LAWD20039, this unit aims to develop and test higher level skills. In addition to relating what they learn on this unit to their learning on the other units studied on the BSc (Hons) in Bioethics, students will be expected to be able to relate aspects of medical law to their prior learning on their originating programme (usually MBChB Medicine) and clinical practice.

Teaching details

20 lectures and 8 tutorials, plus 10 lectures in the Foundations of Legal Research programme

Assessment Details

Two summative pieces of coursework of 2,000 words, each contributing 50% to the final mark.

Students are required to submit one formative essay.

The assessments will assess all of the intended learning outcomes for this unit.

Reading and References

Jackson, E. (2013) Medical Law: Text, Cases and Materials (3rd Edition), Oxford University Press, Oxford