Medical Ethics

Subject LAWS70259 (2016)

Note: This is an archived Handbook entry from 2016.

Credit Points: 12.5
Level: 7 (Graduate/Postgraduate)
Dates & Locations:

This subject has the following teaching availabilities in 2016:

September, Parkville - Taught on campus.
Pre-teaching Period Start 22-Aug-2016
Teaching Period 19-Sep-2016 to 23-Sep-2016
Assessment Period End 14-Dec-2016
Last date to Self-Enrol 31-Mar-2016
Census Date 19-Sep-2016
Last date to Withdraw without fail 04-Nov-2016

This subject has a quota of 30 students. Please refer to the Melbourne Law Masters website for further information about the management of subject quotas and waitlists.

Timetable can be viewed here. For information about these dates, click here.
Time Commitment: Contact Hours: 24-26 hours
Total Time Commitment:

136-150 hours

The pre-teaching period commences four weeks before the subject commencement date. From this time, students are expected to access and review the Reading Guide that will be available from the LMS subject page and the subject materials provided by the subject coordinator, which will be available from Melbourne Law School. Refer to the Reading Guide for confirmation of which resources need to be read and what other preparation is required before the teaching period commences.


Melbourne Law Masters Students: None

JD Students: 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 Student Equity and Disability Support.


Prof Julian Savulescu



Professor Julian Savulescu (Coordinator)

Phone: +61 3 8344 6190

Subject Overview:

Medical practitioners, policy-makers, the courts, patients and families are dealing with ongoing debates in medical ethics ranging from euthanasia, abortion, resource allocation, and managing the risks of research to issues thrown up at the cutting-edge of science where we can now edit the germline, or create new life via so-called “synthetic biology”. While we have existing legal frameworks in place for some of these issues, enormous moral disagreements remain. How should we think about these issues?

This subject aims to provide a basic toolkit and skills to engage in deeper ethical reflection about the major debates in medical ethics and 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. The goal of this subject is not to provide answers to these medical dilemmas, but to enable students to think more deeply for themselves about what their position is and to be able to justify that position to others. A variety of perspectives will be covered through the use of guest lecturers.

Principal topics 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:
    • Gene editing
    • 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 will:

  • Have an advanced and integrated understanding of the nature of ethical argumentation and major current ethical debates
  • Be able to critically examine, analyse, interpret and assess ethical issues and construct arguments relevant to their practical resolution
  • Be an engaged participant in debate regarding medical ethics, including critically evaluating arguments, and understanding and applying ethical theories and concepts as relevant to their application in a medical context
  • Have a sophisticated appreciation of the interplay between ethics and law in medicine, including how ethical principles are relevant to law
  • Have an advanced understanding of the modes of moral reasoning that are used in healthcare ethics, health care policy, and in different part of the world, including Australia
  • Have the cognitive and technical skills to generate critical and creative ideas relating medical ethics and to critically evaluate existing laws, policies, and ethical arguments pertaining to medical ethics
  • Have the cognitive and technical skills to independently examine, research and analyse ethical arguments or policies, practices or law relating to medical ethics
  • Have the communication skills to clearly articulate and convey complex information regarding medical ethics to relevant specialist and non-specialist audiences
  • Be able demonstrate autonomy, expert judgment and responsibility as a practitioner and learner in the field of medical ethics.
  • 5-minute oral presentation and 10-minute questions (in class) (5%)
  • 10,000 word research paper (95%) (14 December) on a topic approved by the subject coordinator

A minimum of 75% attendance is a hurdle requirement.

Prescribed Texts:

Specialist printed materials will be made available free of charge from the Melbourne Law School prior to the pre-teaching period.

Breadth Options:

This subject is not available as a breadth subject.

Fees Information: Subject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date
Links to further information:
Related Course(s): Graduate Diploma in Health and Medical Law
Graduate Diploma in Legal Studies
Juris Doctor
Master of Health and Medical Law
Master of Laws

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