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LLM in Medical Law and Ethics

The LLM in Medical Law and Ethics addresses a diverse range of topics that reflect the legal and ethical challenges faced by those working in and around health and medicine. These topics are examined in their social, political and historical context.

Dr Edward Dove, Programme Director, provides an overview of the LLM in Medical Law and Ethics along with fellow academics Annie Sorbie, Gerard Porter and Emily Postan.

The programme will cover legal and ethical issues that arise in various contexts, including but not limited to:

  • Medical treatment and experimentation
  • Regulation of healthcare professionals
  • Assisted reproduction
  • Genetics
  • Assisted dying and euthanasia
  • Biomedical research, and
  • Public health and global health
Zahra, graduate from the LLM in Medical Law and Ethics
My experience on the LLM in Medical Law and Ethics course was fantastic. The quality of the course was impeccable.
Zahra Arifali Haji Jaffer
LLM in Medical Law and Ethics, 2017

Individual and population health is of critical social concern and has been identified as a key ‘global challenge’ which implicates a wide range of actors and policy fields.

This programme is ideal for those who wish to develop skills that will prepare themselves for a career in medical law or ethics or in health-related policy or regulation, and who wish to add new advocacy skills to their professional portfolio. The programme attracts students from a variety of legal backgrounds, as well as students with prior education and training in health and public health-related fields, life sciences, social sciences, and the humanities.

The LLM in Medical Law and Ethics adopts an interdisciplinary approach to learning, drawing on academics within and beyond law and ethics.

Uniquely, students will have the opportunity to select their own topics for study, exploring together with fellow students and staff, issues that are at the cutting-edge of the broad field of medical law and ethics.

This not only broadens avenues of learning, but also opens students up to a much wider community of scholars and practitioners.

Isabelle graduated with an LLM in Medical Law and Ethics in 2018. Here she talks about her experience of studying on the LLM at Edinburgh Law School, the University of Edinburgh in the 2017-18 academic year.

Edinburgh Law School has had a strong presence in the regulation of the medicine, innovation, and related human rights since the birth of the disciplines of medical law and ethics in the 1970s.

Edinburgh Law School is home to the Mason Institute – a world-leading interdisciplinary research hub – whose research feeds directly into the Masters programme.

The Medical Law and Ethics team, alongside the Mason Institute, is also responsible for the leading textbook in the field, Law and Medical Ethics (Oxford University Press). This was the first textbook of its kind in the UK, and it continues the tradition of medical jurisprudence study first laid down by Professors J Kenyon Mason and Alexander McCall Smith.

As a student on the LLM in Medical Law and Ethics programme, you will become part of our active community of scholars, practitioners, and students from around the world.

You will gain insights into both the fundamentals of medical law and ethics, and issues of contemporary significance that reflect the research interests of members of staff. Importantly, you will benefit from interactions with diverse research communities with which the staff are engaged, including:

The Law School arranges a wide range of events, public lectures and conferences throughout the year which regularly attract high-profile speakers and delegates.

In addition the Mason Institute offers a range of events that you will be able to attend and opportunities to get involved in the activities of the institute. In the video below Dr Agomoni Ganguli-Mitra, co-director of the Mason Institute, talks about the range of events and activities that students can attend.

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If you have any questions about the LLM in Medical Law and Ethics please don’t hesitate to contact us.

This programme can be taken full-time over one year, or part-time over two years*. It offers a range of subjects that covers a broad spectrum of contemporary issues in medical law, jurisprudence and ethics, from an international and interdisciplinary perspective, allowing you to tailor a programme to suit your interests.

The programme consists of 180 credits, comprising taught courses worth 120 credits (60 credits per semester) and a 10,000 word dissertation worth 60 credits. Full programme details are available on the University Degree Regulations and Programmes of Study website.

View full programme information for the LLM in Medical Law and Ethics

Courses shown below are scheduled to run in the 2019/20 academic year.  With the exception of compulsory courses, depending on demand, space on specific courses may be limited.

  • Fundamental Issues in Medical Jurisprudence (20 credits)

    This course serves as a foundation for critical analytical engagement with the core features of the discipline of medical jurisprudence, being the relationship between law and ethics in the provision of healthcare, the influence of human rights on medical practice, the importance of consent, confidentiality and medical negligence in shaping the contours of the doctor/patient relationship, as well as issues at the start and end of life, such as assisted reproduction and assisted dying. Where appropriate, comparative legal analysis will further inform discussion and debate.

  • Fundamental Issues in Bioethics (20 credits)

    This course serves as a foundation for critical engagement with the core elements of bioethics and of doing bioethics. It will introduce students to three pillars of rigorous bioethical analysis: (i) concepts, (ii) theories, and (iii) robust argumentation. It will equip students with the skills to develop and defend ethical arguments, and to apply these to legal, regulatory and policy issues in health and biomedicine.

  • Contemporary Issues in Medical Jurisprudence (20 credits)

    This course is designed to engage students with current live issues arising in the field of medical jurisprudence, being a disciplines which sits at the cross-roads between law, medicine and ethics and is concerned primarily with legal and social responses to advanced in medicine, healthcare and related technologies.  The course is deliberately designed to be open and responsive to issues that are current at the time of delivery in any given year.

You must study a minimum of 40 credits and maximum of 60 credits from the courses listed below.

  • Governance of Innovative Medicine (20 credits)

    This course examines the features of ‘innovative medicine’, its key actors and objectives, the role of international and national law in its regulation, and new approaches to its governance. A key theme of the course will be the creative tension that derives from the dialogue between the scientific, economic and public interests in this socially important arena. The course will enable students to evaluate how law, regulatory structures and new forms of governance mediate key issues and perpetual change at this complex interface to facilitate pursuit of the objectives of health.

  • Public Health Ethics and Law (20 credits)

    This course provides a grounding of the fundamentals elements of public health ethics and law. It explores the form and function of public health through the ethical values, concepts and tensions at play, and considers how these (should) inform policy and practice. It supports the students in critically assessing the legal and regulatory frameworks in which public health operates, and examines the primary national and international institutions that are responsible for public health interventions and/or respond to public health needs.

  • Risk and Regulation: Theories and Practices (20 credits)

    This course provides a detailed exploration of risk and its regulation, examining how regulatory frameworks are shaped and/or respond to new and emerging human activities, many of which rely on or prompt new modes of action, new technologies, new relationships, and, importantly, new risks. Focusing on biomedical case studies in the second half of the course, it explores different regulatory theories, instruments and institutions - legal and non-legal, domestic, regional and international - that govern and shape individual and organisational conduct.

  • Biotechnology, Bioethics and Society (10 credits)

    This course considers the ethics of biotechnology and the life sciences. It begins by giving the student an ethics toolbox with which to approach, analyse and assess current bioethical controversies and discourses. It then addresses specific topics to further explore ethical issues arising from biotechnology and its uses, as well as an exercise to explore crucial ethical concepts and arguments. Finally, in an age of moral pluralism, it can be difficult for stakeholders to secure social consensus on how new biotechnologies should be controlled and exploited. As a result, the regulation of biotechnology has often been a site of sharp disagreement. This module will also examine how the bioethical discussion feeds into the regulatory and governance considerations of biotechnology.

  • Medical Negligence (10 credits)

    This course provides a detailed exploration of the law of medical negligence. It is designed to equip students with an in-depth knowledge and understanding of relevant case law. It also aims to develop skills in using the case law effectively by formulating reasoned and persuasive arguments for or against particular legal propositions. Whilst focussing on the law in the UK, the course will have a strong comparative dimension. The medical negligence action will be viewed in its social, economic and political context and students will be encouraged to reflect critically on the various factors driving law and policy in this area.

Please note that courses 'Medical Negligence' and 'Biotechnology, Bioethics and Society' are co-requisites and must both be taken in the semester in which they run.

You will have the option to take 20 credits from the Law School which will include the courses listed below, depending on availability and with the express permission of the Programme Director.

For full programme and course information please visit the University Degree Regulations and Programmes of Study website.

View full programme information for the LLM in Medical Law and Ethics


Having successfully completed 120 credit points of courses within the LLM, you will be ready to move onto a single piece of independent and in-depth research. The 10,000 word dissertation allows you to focus on a preferred topic from within the field of medical law and ethics. Dissertations normally involve the expansion and development of issues addressed in one of your courses. Your Programme Director will be able to advise you as to whether your topic is appropriate for your programme of study.

You will be assigned an academic dissertation supervisor who will provide you with support and guidance while you prepare and write your dissertation.

The dissertation is a challenging but rewarding endeavour, asking you to demonstrate a comprehensive grasp of the relevant literature and an ability to engage critically with a range of sources, drawing on the skills and knowledge you have developed during the course of the programme. Students are encouraged to show originality and evidence of independent thinking, whether in terms of the material used, or the manner in which it is presented.

The dissertation is written in the summer months (April to August) after the taught courses are successfully completed.

If you have any questions about the dissertation or LLM in Medical Law and Ethics you can contact the Programme Director, Dr Edward Dove.

Contact Dr Edward Dove

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If you have any questions about the LLM in Medical Law and Ethics please don’t hesitate to contact us.

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You will be taught by a core teaching team made up of individuals who each has an outstanding record of research in the field, as well as in other related areas. Core teaching staff for the 2018-19 academic year are listed below.

Edward (Ted) Dove is Lecturer in Risk and Regulation at the School of Law, University of Edinburgh, and Deputy Director of the J Kenyon Mason Institute for Medicine, Life Sciences and Law.

From 2011 until 2014, Ted was an Academic Associate at the Centre of Genomics and Policy at McGill University in Montreal. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree (BA) in Political Science and Civil Law and Common Law degrees(BCL, LLB) from McGill University, a Master of Laws degree (LLM) from Columbia University in New York City and a PhD from the University of Edinburgh.

Ted’s primary research interests are in the areas of regulation of biomedical research, research ethics oversight, health-related data access and sharing, and governance of international research collaboration.

Find out more about Edward Dove

Dr. Agomoni Ganguli-Mitra is Chancellor’s Fellow in the Legal and Ethical Aspects of Biomedicine, and Co-director of the JK Mason Institute for Medicine, Life Sciences and the Law. She is also a member of the Wellcome Trust-funded Centre for Biomedicine, Self and Society.

Dr. Ganguli-Mitra’s background is in bioethics, with a special interest in global bioethics, structural and gender justice. She has written on ethical issues related to global surrogacy, sex-selection, biomedical research in low-income countries, social value in research governance and the concepts of exploitation and vulnerability in bioethics.

Find out more about Agomoni Ganguli-Mitra

Gerard is a lecturer in medical law and ethics in the School of Law. His research interests include medical law, patent law and the regulation of the life sciences. He speaks Japanese and also conducts comparative research in Japanese law within these subject areas.

He has held visiting fellowships at the Centre for Studies in Ethics and Rights (Mumbai, India), the Centre for Biomedical Ethics, National University of Singapore and with the Program on Science, Technology and Society at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University.

Find out more about Gerard Porter

Emily is an Early Career Fellow in Bioethics. Her background is in philosophical bioethics and policy management. She was awarded her PhD for her thesis ‘Defining Ourselves: narrative identity and access to personal bioinformation’ in 2017.

Prior to her doctoral research she worked in policy roles at the Scottish Government in the fields of public health and environmental justice. She was also project leader and co-author of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics 2013 report ‘Novel Neurotechnologies: intervening in the brain’. She has published on ethical and legal issues relating to identity development, consent to research participation, secondary uses of health data, and neurotechnology.

Emily’s main research interests lie in exploring the relationships between biomedical information and self-conception, specifically the narrative constitution of self. Emily is Course Organiser for the on-campus and online LLM courses Fundamentals in Bioethics and Biotechnology, Bioethics and Society. She is a Deputy Director of the JK Mason Institute for Medicine, Life Sciences and the Law, with particular responsibility for the Institute’s policy engagement portfolio.

Find out more about Emily Postan

Annie Sorbie is a Lecturer in Medical Law and Ethics at Edinburgh Law School, with a research and teaching portfolio. She is a medical lawyer (currently non-practising) with over 14 years’ experience in legal practice in the health, social care and regulatory sector (September 2001 – December 2015, Partner from 2009). She has extensive experience of providing strategic advice on matters of health regulatory practice and policy, both in health and social care regulation, and also more widely within the NHS and private sectors.

Having joined the Wellcome funded Liminal Spaces Project in January 2016, Annie’s doctoral research interrogates the contribution of the public interest to health research regulation in the context of access to identifiable patient information for research purposes without consent. Annie is also a Deputy Director of the Mason Institute for Medicine, Life Sciences and the Law, and co-leads its policy portfolio. In June 2018 Annie was appointed to the Lay Advisory Group of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh.

Find out more about Annie Sorbie

You may also be taught by other leading experts and practitioners. The staff teaching on this programme are subject to change in any given academic year and will depend on the courses offered.

The staff teaching on this programme are subject to change for 2018/19 and will depend on the core courses offered.

Contact us

If you have any questions about the LLM in Medical Law and Ethics please don’t hesitate to contact us.

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We require a minimum UK 2:1 honours degree, or its international equivalent, in law, politics, medicine, medical humanities or life sciences. We will also consider candidates with a degree in a related discipline which includes relevant prior study.

The majority of our applicants have studied law; applications from non-law students with relevant studies and experience - particularly in the medical field - will be considered, however, and further guidance on this as it applies to each of our programmes may be sought from the School.

If you have a non-UK degree, please check whether your degree qualification is equivalent to the minimum standard before applying.

Check your degree

Postgraduate study in the field of law requires a thorough, complex and demanding knowledge of English, so we ask that the communication skills of all students are at the same minimum standard.

Students whose first language is not English must therefore show evidence of one of the following qualifications below:

  • IELTS: total 7.0 (at least 6.5 in each module).
  • TOEFL-iBT: total 100 (at least 23 in each module).
  • PTE(A): total 67 (at least 61 in each of the Communicative Skills sections).
  • CAE and CPE: total 185 (at least 176 in each module).
  • Trinity ISE: ISE III (with a pass in all four components).

Your English language certificate must be no more than two years old at the beginning of your degree programme.

We do accept an undergraduate or masters degree, that was taught and assessed in English in a majority English speaking country as defined by UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI). The UK Government's website provides a list of majority English speaking countries.

View the UKVI list of majority English speaking countries

We also accept an undergraduate or postgraduate degree, or equivalent, that has been taught and assessed in English from a university on our list of approved universities in non-majority English speaking countries.

If you are not a national of a majority English speaking country, then your degree must be no more than three and a half years old at the beginning of your programme of study.

Find out more about the University's English language requirements

Your application may not be successful if you do not currently satisfy any of these requirements; alternatively, you may be offered a place conditional on your reaching the satisfactory standard by the time you start the degree.

The University runs a series of programmes for English Language Education, including a pre-sessional English Language Programme intended to strengthen your English Language skills before you start your programme of study.

Find out more about English language support offered by the University

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If you have any questions about the LLM in Medical Law and Ethics please don’t hesitate to contact us.

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We recommend that you apply as early as possible; this is particularly important for students holding conditional offers (for example, you may need to allow sufficient time to take an English language test) and for overseas students who may need time to satisfy necessary visa requirements (for further, country-specific information, please consult the website of the University's Edinburgh Global) and/or to apply for University accommodation.

Apply now for September 2019 entry

The deadline for applications is 30 June 2019.

We aim to review applications and make selection decisions throughout the cycle and we monitor application numbers carefully to ensure we are able to accommodate all those who receive offers. It may therefore be necessary to close a programme earlier than the published deadline and if this is the case we will place a four-week warning notice on the relevant programme page.

Applications are made online via the University Application Service, EUCLID.

Please follow the instructions carefully and make sure that you have included the following documentation with your application:

  • Degree certificates showing award of degree.
  • Previous academic transcripts for all past degree programmes (please upload the full transcript showing results from all years of study).
  • A reference in support or your application. The reference should be academic and dated no earlier than one year from the start of study on the LLM programme.
  • Evidence of English language proficiency, if required.

If you are currently studying for your degree or you are not in a possession of an English test result you may still apply to the programme. Please note that it is your responsibility to submit the necessary documents.

After your application has been submitted you will be able to track its progress through the University's applicant hub.

Application processing times will vary however the admissions team will endeavour to process your application within four to six weeks of submission. Please note that missing documentation will delay the application process.

You will be informed as soon as possible of the decision taken. Three outcomes are possible:

  • You may be offered a place unconditionally
  • You may be offered a conditional place, which means that you must fulfil certain conditions that will be specified in the offer letter. Where a conditional offer is made, it is your responsibility to inform the College Postgraduate Office when you have fulfilled the requirements set out.
  • Your application may be unsuccessful. If your application has not been successful, you can request feedback from us or refer to our guidance for unsuccessful applicants, which explains some of the common reasons we why we reach this decision.
    View the University's guidance for unsuccessful applicants

You can find full and detailed application guidance on the University's website.

Find out more about applying to the University of Edinburgh

The University’s terms and conditions form part of your contract with the University, and you should read them, and our data protection policy, carefully before applying.

University of Edinburgh admissions terms and conditions

Apply now for September 2019 entry

Contact us

If you have any questions about the LLM in Medical Law and Ethics please don’t hesitate to contact us.

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