Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2020-2021 (archived)

Module LAW45615: Medical Law and Ethics

Department: Law

LAW45615: Medical Law and Ethics

Type Open Level 4 Credits 15 Availability Available in 2020/21 Module Cap None.


  • None


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • The general aim of this module is to cultivate a critical appreciation of the legal and ethical difficulties raised by modern medical practice with particular focus on England and Wales. More specifically, the aims and objectives include the following:
  • To examine the law's involvement with medicine
  • To explore how legal principles might be most effectively used in the medical sphere
  • To develop ethical and contextual awareness of selected medical topics


  • This module explores the ability of the law to adequately respond to the ethical, social and policy challenges
  • The emergence of medical law and its ethical context
  • Consent and refusal in the content of medical interventions
  • Selected topical issues in, for example, end of life decision-making, transplantation, abortion and reproductive medicine

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • On completion of the module students should be able to demonstrate in-depth knowledge and understanding of the existing law and issues of ethical controversy in medical contexts.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Students should be able to:
  • Analyse and evaluate the existing law in light of the legal, social, political and moral questions raised
  • Engage in an informed debate concerning current proposals for reform.
Key Skills:
  • Students should gain the ability to research, analyse and understand legal materials and the literature relevant to medical law and ethics. •
  • Undertake independent research

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • This module will use lectures to impart information and to guide students through the material they will have to research and analyse. Through discussion-led lectures and seminars the students will be invited to draw on their existing legal knowledge and engage with domestic, international, comparative and European legal materials, as appropriate.
  • The relevant learning outcomes will be achieved through:
  • Monitoring the student’s understanding of the material and providing additional guidance where necessary;
  • Enabling students to develop a critical view of the material covered through the formative essay and discussion-led lectures/seminars

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures/seminars 8 Weekly during Michaelmas 2 hours 16
Preparation and reading 134
Total 150

Summative Assessment

Component: Essay Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 3,000 100% 3,000 words different title

Formative Assessment:

1,000 word formative essay (optional).

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University