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  • Study Type

    Full time available

  • Subject Areas


  • Start Date


  • Course Duration

    1-2 years full-time

  • Course Type


  • Course Fees


  • Last Updated

    16 December 2016

Course content

Individual and population health is a matter of growing social concern. Achieving good health and delivering effective healthcare demands innovation. A variety of fields have a role to play, including law.

This programme examines topics that reflect some of the main contemporary legal and ethical challenges faced by those working in medicine, and places them in their social and historical context.

These include issues that arise in the context of genetics, assisted reproduction, abortion, standards of medical treatment, transplantation medicine, mental health, advance decisions, assisted suicide, medical research, and the allocation of scarce resources.

We offer students the opportunity to study the fundamentals of medical law and ethics, both international and domestic, at an advanced level, and the opportunity to take more specialised courses on issues of contemporary significance, encouraging and supporting the development of research skills necessary for a career in medical law or ethics.

The legal and ethical experts who deliver this programme come from a wide range of disciplines from across the University, and they benefit from a close association with the J Kenyon Mason Institute for Medicine, Life Sciences and Law.

Programme structure

This programme offers a range of subjects that covers a broad spectrum of contemporary issues in medical law, jurisprudence and ethics, from an international and interdisciplinary perspective, allowing you to tailor a programme to suit your interests.

For 2017/18 the programme consists of 180 credits, comprising taught courses worth 120 credits (60 credits per semester) and a 10,000 word dissertation worth 60 credits.

The 120 credits of taught courses for 2017/18 are made up of the following mandatory and option courses.

Mandatory courses (100 credits)

20 credit courses in semester 1

  • Fundamental Issues in Medical Jurisprudence
  • Governance of Innovative Medicine - New for 2017!
  • Risk and Regulation: Health and the Environment

20 credit courses in semester 2

  • Contemporary Issues in Medical Jurisprudence
  • Biotechnology, Bioethics and Society* (10 credits)
  • Medical Negligence* (10 credits)

*These programmes are co-requisite.

Option Courses

The remaining 20-credits can be taken from the list of Law School courses and courses offered by other Schools in the University of Edinburgh from the list below.

Courses from the School of Law

  • Human Rights Law in Europe
  • Mental Health and Crime
  • Inter-State Conflict and Humanitarian Law

Courses from outside the School of Law

  • Controversies in Science and Technology (School of Social and Political Science - 20 credits, semester 2)
  • Cultures of Human Rights & Humanitarianism (School of Social and Political Science - 20 credits, semester 2)
  • Climate Change, Justice and Responsibility (School of Social and Political Science - 20 credits, semester 2)
  • Gender and Development (School of Social and Political Science - 20 credits, semester 2)
  • Gender and Sexuality in Global Politics (School of Social and Political Science - 20 credits, semester 2)
  • Social Determinants of Health and Public Policy (School of Social and Political Science - 20 credits, semester 2)

We cannot guarantee that all courses will run each year, and will provide adequate notice of any changes to the programme structure and courses.

Learning outcomes

By the end of the programme, you will be able to:

  • identify areas of law relevant to contemporary issues in the broad healthcare setting
  • identify gaps, inconsistencies, or instances of inappropriate or over-regulation in healthcare and nascent fields
  • build on your understanding of key values in medical law and ethics, such as autonomy, solidarity, justice, reciprocity
  • build on your understanding of key mechanisms in medical law and ethics, such as consent, confidentiality, human rights, etc
  • appreciate the international dimensions of medicine and its regulation, including the growing importance of European regulation and international agreements
  • appreciate the limits of law in discerning appropriate social responses to new medical and technical advances
  • develop critical thinking informed by legal, ethical, and social science analysis, and apply that thinking to comment upon the law’s role and appropriate responses to contemporary issues
  • experience the benefits of undertaking study in different learning environments (both on-campus and online)

You will engage with different learning environments and modes of class participation, and will draw upon and develop a range of skills. The programme will foster imaginative ways of unpacking and responding to contemporary issues in ways that do not necessarily follow or merely apply existing paradigms or legal constructs.

You will demonstrate a sound grasp of the foundational elements of medical law and ethics, including the role of the law and its various mechanisms (eg: consent, confidentiality, reasonableness, negligence) and the cross-cutting human rights dimensions.

You will develop critical thinking informed by ethical analysis, and apply that thinking to comment on and critique the law’s role in regulating medicine, healthcare services, research, and nascent fields.

Other skills you will develop include:

  • general intellectual skills, such as independent critical analysis, interdisciplinary understandings of common problems, problem-solving through reasoned and well-justified ethical and legal discourse, synthesis of complex information and ability to subject to informed critique
  • personal skills, such as written and oral skills, group working and interaction skills, intellectual development through interdisciplinary engagement and blended learning environment
  • study-derived personal virtues, such as autonomy, critical self-reflection, consideration of others and academic integrity

Career opportunities

This programme can lead to a range of employment opportunities and specialised academic work, including: specialised training for solicitor or advocate work with an emphasis on health related issues; professional care providers; ethics review panel members; health policy and/or patient advocates (e.g. NGOs); or health policy designers (e.g. governmental legal advisers, consultants, etc).

Visit the Medical Law and Ethics - LLM page on the University of Edinburgh website for more details!





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