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Course content

Advances in biomedical technology, changing moral attitudes, and developments in law, combine to generate difficult ethical, legal, policy challenges for those involved in the delivery of healthcare. This programme provides an opportunity to gain a deeper and more systematic understanding of these issues and to explore the moral problems faced by healthcare professionals and those involve in healthcare management and policy. It also aims to provide a foundation for pursuing further study at doctoral level for those interested in doing so.

ABOUT THE COURSE

Applications are welcome from people with a professional or other serious interest in Medical Ethics and Law, including (but not limited to) doctors, nurses, health care managers, intercalating medical students, radiographers, chaplains, charity and voluntary workers, social workers, hospice directors, medical and pharmaceutical researchers, dentists, veterinary practitioners and health care educators.

The MA in Medical Ethics and Law is run by the Centre for Professional Ethics and School of Law at Keele University. It is one of England’s longest established master’s programmes in this subject area, having first been presented in 1987.

The programme is available part-time, full-time, by modular study, and by intercalation within a medical degree. It is taught in short, intensive blocks to make it accessible to those in full-time employment and from across the country and beyond.

Teaching staff also work at the forefront of research in medical ethics, which helps to give the course a contemporary edge. In the most recent 2014 REF, staff from Keele's Healthcare Law and Bioethics cluster who teach on the MA were part of Keele's Philosophy submission, which was ranked first in the country for its Impact work. The impact submission was based on work in the field of Biomedical ethics, with 80% of this work judged as being world-leading and the remaining 20% as being internationally excellent.

COURSE CONTENT

The MA in Medical Ethics and Law consists of four 30-credit taught modules and a 60-credit dissertation.

When taken part-time the four taught modules are completed in the first year, with the dissertation being completed in the second year. The part-time mode of study is designed to meet the needs of healthcare practitioners and others who wish to combine study for the MA with full-time employment. The part time programme requires only 12 days attendance in year 1 and one day (a Research Methods study day in October) in year 2. Many second year students find it useful to come to Keele more frequently, to meet their supervisors, attend talks by visiting speakers, and use other university facilities.

Students taking the MA by modular study may take one or more taught modules per year for a period of up to four years, followed by the dissertation in the subsequent year. (Maximum five years in total.) The Semester 1 modules must normally be completed before the Semester 2 modules.

Some students may not want to do the entire MA Programme. These students may exit the programme after completing the taught modules. Successful completion of all four taught modules (120 credits) leads to the award of a Postgraduate Diploma in Medical Ethics and Law; while successful completion any two taught modules (60 credits) leads to the award of a Postgraduate Certificate in Medical Ethics and Law.

MORAL THEORY AND MEDICAL ETHICS (30 CREDITS)

Topics covered typically include:

  • consequentialism
  • deontology
  • virtue ethics
  • principlism
  • autonomy and paternalism
  • the ethical foundations of consent
  • liberty and toleration
  • evaluating and constructing ethical arguments
  • introduction to the library and electronic resources
  • how to write essays in ethics

PRINCIPLES OF MEDICAL LAW (30 CREDITS) 

Topics covered typically include:

  • introduction to law
  • use of cases and statutes 
  • healthcare law and the concept of health
  • regulation and self-regulation in the healthcare system
  • law and consent
  • capacity
  • professional negligence
  • mental health law
  • confidentiality and the law
  • the relationship between law and morality
  • writing law essays
  • legal arguments and referencing

LIFE, DEATH AND THE HUMAN BODY (30 CREDITS)

Topics covered typically include:

  • abortion: ethical and legal issues
  • regulating reproduction
  • selective reproduction and saviour siblings
  • euthanasia: ethical issues
  • death, dying and the law
  • advance directives
  • post mortem organ transplant
  • treatment of intersex children
  • transgender, medicine and the law
  • assignment guidance and feedback

HEALTHCARE, JUSTICE AND SOCIETY (30 CREDITS)

Topics covered typically include:

  • biomedical research ethics and law
  • ethical issues in bio-banking
  • ethical issues in stem cell policy
  • criminal regulation of medicine
  • conscientious objection in healthcare
  • healthcare and international law
  • ethics and law of healthcare resource allocation.

The module also includes guidance for part-time students on progression to the dissertation stage.

DISSERTATION (60 CREDITS)

The dissertation provides an opportunity for students to use the knowledge and skills acquired during their programme of study to undertake a more extended piece of work on a topic of their choice. The module consists of independent supervised study leading to the production of a 15,000 to 20,000-word dissertation.

If there is a particular area you wish to write about and would like to discuss this prior to applying for the course, please contact us.

TEACHING AND ASSESSMENT

Teaching for the four taught modules is delivered in short intense blocks, enabling those in full-time employment to do the course part-time and to fit it around the demands of their work wherever they are based. Each student is assigned a personal supervisor from the outset, whom they can contact for help or advice at any time during the course.

Each of the four taught modules is assessed through a 5,000-word essay. The essay question is chosen from a list reflecting the main themes of the module, enabling students to focus on the issues that are most interesting to them or relevant to their work. For each essay, students submit a plan (required for modules 1 and 2; optional for modules 3 and 4), on which feedback is provided.

For the dissertation module, students are allocated a supervisor to provide support and advice during the writing process, and attend a one-day Research Methods Workshop in Semester 1.


Visit the Medical Ethics and Law MA/PGDip/PGCert page on the Keele University website for more details!

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