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Unit information: Medical Law in 2014/15

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Unit name Medical Law
Unit code LAWD20039
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 4 (weeks 1-24)
Unit director Professor. Judy Laing
Open unit status Not open

LAWD10011 Law of Tort



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

Description including Unit Aims

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 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.

Intended Learning Outcomes

The unit is intended to enable you to develop a good understanding of the principles of Medical Law, an introduction to the areas of medical ethics that relate to the law and a facility in relating one to the other. Although we expect you to become familiar with the relevant cases and statutes, a very important aspect of the course is the question of what the law should be.

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. Your 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.

By the end of the module, students should be able to:

  1. state the law accurately;
  2. apply legal principles to problem case scenarios;
  3. think critically about ways in which the law could be reformed.

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

Teaching Information

22 lectures and 8 tutorials, plus 2 guest lectures/workshops

Assessment Information

Two summative pieces of coursework of 2,000 words, the first contributing 40% to the final mark and the second contributing 60% to the final mark. Students will also have the opportunity to submit one formative essay.

Reading and References

Emily Jackson Medical Law: Text, Cases and Materials (OUP)(3rd edition) (2013)