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This subject is designed to provide students with a broad understanding of some of the current legal and ethical issues arising in promoting and protecting human health in contemporary society. It will engage students to think about human health, illness and disability through the traditional legal framework of legislation and case law and to introduce them to some of the different ethical approaches commonly applied in this area, including utilitarianism, human rights, ethics of care, principle-based ethics and Kantian ethics.
The subject will use case studies to explore specific health issues and evaluate how well ethical theories address competing values and perspectives in relation to health. In class, we may consider different works of fiction and non- fiction, newspaper articles, film and works of art that depict the topic of the week in the context of health in society.
We will consider current health dilemmas that arise from pre-birth to end of life decisions, which will include a selection of the following issues:
- Issues at beginning of life, including ethical and legal questions about the status of the embryo, the welfare of the child to be born and the role of the state in regulating reproductive choice about abortion, selective reproduction, surrogacy and donor conception.
- The limits of consent, including body modification surgery, gender reassignment treatment, male and female circumcision, refusal of treatment by parents, decision-making by minors and complex situations where the individual has diminished capacity or mental health issues.
- Emerging health technologies.
- Public health concerns including organ donation, the legal response to communicable diseases for example, Ebola and Zika viruses, and non-communicable diseases, such as those related to lifestyle factors, for example, tobacco use.
- Decision making at the end of life, including advance care decisions, withholding and withdrawing life sustaining treatment and assisted dying.
On completion of this subject, students should have:
- Developed oral skills through contributing to tutorial discussion groups;
- Developed analytical style writing skills through preparation for tutorials and the assignments; and
- Developed an attitude to learning which views pre-reading, reflection and class discussion as essential to learning.
In addition, on completion of the subject, students should have developed the following skills more specific to the discipline of law:
- Developed strategies for responding to legal and ethical issues in contemporary health topics.
Last updated: 6 December 2019