Medical Ethics

Subject LAWS70259 (2014)

Note: This is an archived Handbook entry from 2014.

Credit Points: 12.50
Level: 7 (Graduate/Postgraduate)
Dates & Locations:

This subject is not offered in 2014.

Time Commitment: Contact Hours: The total class time is between 24 and 26 hours.
Total Time Commitment: Not available
Prerequisites: None
Corequisites: None
Recommended Background Knowledge:

Applicants without legal qualifications should note that subjects are offered in the discipline of law at an advanced graduate level. While every effort will be made to meet the needs of students trained in other fields, concessions will not be made in the general level of instruction or assessment. Most subjects assume the knowledge usually acquired in a degree in law (LLB, JD or equivalent). Applicants should note that admission to some subjects in the Melbourne Law Masters will be dependent upon the individual applicant’s educational background and professional experience.

Non Allowed Subjects: None
Core Participation Requirements:

The Melbourne Law Masters welcomes applications from students with disabilities. The inherent academic requirements for study in the Melbourne Law Masters are:

  • The ability to attend a minimum of 75% of classes and actively engage in the analysis and critique of complex materials and debate;
  • The ability to read, analyse and comprehend complex written legal materials and complex interdisciplinary materials;
  • The ability to clearly and independently communicate in writing a knowledge and application of legal principles and interdisciplinary materials and to critically evaluate these;
  • The ability to clearly and independently communicate orally a knowledge and application of legal principles and interdisciplinary materials and critically evaluate these;
  • The ability to work independently and as a part of a group;
  • The ability to present orally and in writing legal analysis to a professional standard.

Students who feel their disability will inhibit them from meeting these inherent academic requirements are encouraged to contact the Disability Liaison Unit:


For more information, contact the Melbourne Law Masters office.

Phone: +61 3 8344 6190

Subject Overview:

The curve of all technology is exponentially increasing: biotechnology, neurotechnologies, information technology and nanotechnology. The next decade is likely to see more profound advances in the medical and biological sciences than have ever occurred. Synthetic biology is just one example. These will present both unprecedented opportunities for the promotion of human health and wellbeing, but also unique threats and risks to human health, society and the environment. They will raise profound questions of justice and regulation. How we decide ethically to use technology, science and medicine will become more important questions than how we go about discovering more about the causal structure of the world. This subject aims to provide a basic toolkit and skills to engage in deeper ethical reflection about advances in the biological and neurosciences. Professor Julian Savulescu is Director of the Centre for Practical Ethics, the Oxford Centre for Neuroethics and the Institute for Science and Ethics, University of Oxford. He is editor of the Journal of Medical Ethics and is a recognised world leader in medical ethics.

Principal topics will include:

  • The current revolution in bioethical reasoning and methods in bioethics
  • Making good medical/moral judgments for self and others
  • Basic ethical theories and concepts
  • Abortion
  • Euthanasia
  • Regulation of research, including:
    • Stem cell research and cloning
    • Transgenesis and human–non-human chimeras
    • Synthetic biology
    • Sale of biological material and body parts
    • Regulation of doping in sport
    • Reproductive cloning
    • Human enhancement
    • Genetic selection
    • Coercion in reproduction
    • Neuroethics.
Learning Outcomes:

A student who has successfully completed this subject should:

  • Understand the nature of ethical argumentation
  • Be able to identify ethical issues and construct arguments relevant to their practical resolution
  • Be able to engage in ethical debate and evaluate arguments
  • Understand basic ethical theories and concepts
  • Understand the difference between ethics and law in medical matters
  • Understand how ethical principles are relevant to law
  • Understand the modes of moral reasoning that are used in health care ethics, health care policy and in different parts of the world, including Australia
  • Be able to apply the foregoing tools to practical clinical problems and problems of health law.
  • 5-minute oral presentation and 10-minute questions (in class) (5%)
  • 10,000 word research paper (95%) (15 December) on a topic approved by the subject coordinator
Prescribed Texts:

Core subject materials will be provided free of charge to all students. Some subjects require further texts to be purchased. Details regarding any prescribed texts will be provided prior to the commencement of the subject.

Breadth Options:

This subject is not available as a breadth subject.

Fees Information: Subject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date
Links to further information:

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