Module details for Medical Law and Bioethics


Medical Law and Bioethics considers the body of laws and ethical principles that governs the relationship between health-care providers and their patients. Contemporary problems in the related discipline of bioethics are also covered.


The module has two aims: First, it aims to critically assess and analyse the body of rules that governs the relationship between the health care provider and health care user. Second, the module provides an introduction to bioethical principles, such as those which inform our thinking (and law) on reproductive technologies, foetal rights, research on human participants, organ donation, the rights of the dying and the legal definition of death.

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this module the student should be able to:

1.  critically assess and evaluate contemporary legal issues and identify lacunae in the law in the context of the relationship between the health care provider and health care user;

2.  critically appraise and evaluate the rules underpinning the law as it relates to negligence in the context of the above-mentioned relationship;

3.  form legally-accountable opinions on a number of cutting-edge issues in the field of bioethics;

4.  demonstrate enhanced skills of oral and written analysis and communication in constrained circumstances; and

5.  conduct legal research and analysis both independently and cooperatively in an academic environment.

Indicative Content

1 Introduction

Medical law as a discipline in the context of the relationship between the health care provider and health care user. The underpinnings of bioethics as a discipline distinct from medical law.

2 Substantive Issues

The interplay between medical law and medical ethics and the role of professional bodies in this regard. The foundations of the relationship between health care provider and health care user. The legal rules pertaining to establishing medical negligence. Issues related to the doctrine of informed consent in medical law. Issues at the beginning and end of life. Patient confidentiality. An overview of selected issues in public health law (e.g. HIV, COVID-19). Selected issues pertaining to the field of bioethics, such as new medical technologies, embryo and stem-cell research, assisted reproduction, organ donation; medical research.

3 Common Regulatory Issues

Regulating health care professionals. The rules of contract, criminal law and the law of delict as they pertain to medical law. Legislation and regulations pertaining to issues such as organ donation, assisted reproduction, and other areas of medical law. Bioethical principles and core documents of ethics.

4 Enforcement

The role of Scottish health professions’ regulatory bodies and councils, such as the General Medical Council and Nursing and Midwifery Council. Courts. Tribunals. Consideration of court decisions.

5 General Issues

Confidentiality. Withdrawing and withholding treatment. Euthanasia and assisted suicide. Problems/issues associated with trans-national medical research. Anticipated future challenges for medical law and bioethics.

Teaching and Learning Work Loads

Teaching and Learning Method Hours
Lecture 4
Tutorial/Seminar 24
Practical Activity 0
Assessment 40
Independent 136
Total 204

Guidance notes

SCQF Level - The Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework provides an indication of the complexity of award qualifications and associated learning and operates on an ascending numeric scale from Levels 1-12 with SCQF Level 10 equating to a Scottish undergraduate Honours degree.

Credit Value – The total value of SCQF credits for the module. 20 credits are the equivalent of 10 ECTS credits. A full-time student should normally register for 60 SCQF credits per semester.


We make every effort to ensure that the information on our website is accurate but it is possible that some changes may occur prior to the academic year of entry. The modules listed in this catalogue are offered subject to availability during academic year 2021/22 , and may be subject to change for future years.