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Unit information: Current Issues in Health Care Ethics and Law in 2014/15

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Unit name Current Issues in Health Care Ethics and Law
Unit code SSCMM0002
Credit points 30
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Academic Year (weeks 1 - 52)
Unit director Dr. Deans
Open unit status Not open




School/department Bristol Medical School
Faculty Faculty of Health Sciences

Description including Unit Aims

This Unit will develop students' understanding of, and critical reflection on, topical issues in health care ethics and law, including issues arising in the care of children, inter-disciplinary practice and research ethics. The Unit will also offer a student-centred approach to some content, allowing issues of specific interest to be identified and discussed. Other sessions will comprise resarch-led sessions with Centre and School staff. Topics will be chosen by mutual agreement between Centre staff and students, but may encompass surgical ethics, stem cell therapy, genetics and mental health. Students will have the opportunity to demonstrate application of knowledge through an essay drawing together theoretical and reflective scholarship.


This Unit aims to provide students with a systematic understanding and critical awareness of some of the key aspects of ‘clinical ethics’ – the way in which ethical and legal dilemmas arise and are analysed in the context of modern health care. Through a consideration of several current topics, students will learn how clinical ethical reasoning occurs in practice and some of the benefits and drawbacks of this process. Students will also be able to critically appraise and apply some of the concepts of clinical ethics to a topic of their own choosing.

Intended Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this Unit, students will be able to:

  1. Systematically understand several topical issues arising in health care ethics and law;
  2. Critically reflect on and evaluate the issues arising from these topics;
  3. Apply theoretical approaches in health care ethics and law to a topical ethico-legal issue, through undertaking independent research, drawing on appropriate methodology and research tools to develop original arguments and reflect on their validity; and
  4. Show evidence of soundly reasoned, original and clearly communicated scholarship in health care ethics and law as it applies to these topical issues.

Teaching Information

Student centred teaching & learning strategies will be promoted using the following methods:

  • Online tutorials, incorporating discussion boards and guided reading
  • Student-centred seminars
  • Student-led seminars
  • Small group exercises

Assessment Information

Assessment of this unit will comprise a written essay of 6,000 words. The topic of the assignment will be chosen by the student in consultation with the Unit Director, who will recommend further supervision as necessary. The self-directed element of this Unit will provide valuable grounding for the Dissertation Unit.

Reading and References

  1. Kuhse H, Singer P, Eds. (2009) A companion to bioethics, 2nd ed. Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell.
  2. Steinbock B, Ed. (2009) The Oxford handbook of bioethics. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  3. Brazier M, Cave E. (2011) Medicine, patients and the law, 5th ed. London: Penguin.
  4. Herring J. (2011) Medical Law. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  5. Ashcroft RE, Dawson A, Draper H, McMillan J. Principles of Health Care Ethics, 2nd Ed. Chichester: John Wiley & Sons.
  6. Johnstone C & Bradbury P. (2008) 100 Cases in Clinical Ethics and Law. Hodder Arnold.