LL4EB      Half Unit
Key Issues in Medical Law and Ethics

This information is for the 2023/24 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Cressida Auckland


This course is available on the LLM (extended part-time), LLM (full-time) and University of Pennsylvania Law School LLM Visiting Students. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

This course has a limited number of places and we cannot guarantee all students will get a place.

Course content

Medical law is a rapidly developing subject, as new technologies and treatments offer new possibilities for creating, extending, and enhancing life. This course will consider how we ought to regulate innovations such as genome editing and artificial wombs; what the implications may be of increasing reliance on artificial intelligence in healthcare settings; how new treatments reinvigorate old debates around end-of-life decision-making or abortion; and how existing health inequalities have been highlighted, and exacerbated, in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. Each week, we will interrogate a different key issue in medical law and ethics. While the topics will be guided by current controversies, subjects for 2023-4 may include: autonomy and mental capacity; incapacity in adults; medical decision-making in the context of minors; claims for wrongful conception, life and birth; abortion; preimplantation genetic testing; assisted dying; health inequalities; patient choice and rights; and the role of artificial intelligence in healthcare.


20 hours of seminars in the AT.

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to produce 1 essay in the AT.

One 2,000 word essay

Indicative reading

• P. Skowron, The Relationship between Autonomy and Adult Mental Capacity in the Law of England and Wales, Medical Law Review (2019) Vol 27(1) Pages 32–58. 

• E. Jackson, 'From "doctor knows best" to dignity: Placing adults who lack capacity at the centre of decisions about their medical treatment' (2018) Modern Law Review 81(2), 247-281

• A. Buchanan, ‘Advance Directives and the Personal Identity Problem’ (1988) 17(4) Philosophy and Public Affairs 277

• C. Auckland and I. Goold. "Parental rights, best interests and significant harms: who should have the final say over a child's medical care?." The Cambridge Law Journal (2019): 1-37.

• J.J. Thompson, ‘A Defense of Abortion’ (1971) 1 Philosophy and Public Affairs 1

• J. Savulescu, ‘Procreative Beneficence: Why We Should Select the Best Children’ (2001) 15 Bioethics 413

Those who have not studied medical law might find it helpful to read E. Jackson, Medical Law: Text, Cases and Materials, 6th edition (Oxford UP, 2022) as an introductory text.


Exam (100%, duration: 2 hours, reading time: 15 minutes) in the spring exam period.

Key facts

Department: Law School

Total students 2022/23: Unavailable

Average class size 2022/23: Unavailable

Controlled access 2022/23: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Course selection videos

Some departments have produced short videos to introduce their courses. Please refer to the course selection videos index page for further information.

Personal development skills

  • Leadership
  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Communication
  • Commercial awareness
  • Specialist skills