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.
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
- Assisted dying and euthanasia
- Biomedical research, and
- Public health and global health
My experience on the LLM in Medical Law and Ethics course was fantastic. The quality of the course was impeccable.
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.
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 J Kenyon Mason Institute for Medicine Life Sciences and Law, an interdisciplinary research institute based in the Law School
- The Global Academies of Justice and Health
- The Institute for the Study of Science, Technology and Innovation, based in the School of Social and Political Science
- Usher Institute of Population Health Sciences and Informatics, and
- The Centre for Biomedicine, Self and Society.
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.
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.
Courses shown below are for the 2020/21 academic year and are for illustrative purposes. Courses for the 2021/22 academic year will be confirmed in May 2021.
- 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.
- 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.
Global Health Law and Policy (20 credits)
This course will be taught online.
This course offers a grounding in the fundamental elements of global health law and policy. It explores the form and function of global health; the social influences that can impact upon global health; and how international law and policy shape the contours of global health. This course also supports students to assess international institutions that administer global health programmes and/or respond to global health needs through international innovation and collaboration.
Governance of Innovative Medicine (20 credits)
This course will be taught online.
This is a course about facilitation of the development of innovative medicinal products and their release into the market and clinic, in order to fulfil the societal goal to deliver 'public goods of health'. It provides a framework for thinking about how governance mechanisms enable both the creation of novel research tools and therapeutic products, and their accessibility to the widest community of researchers and patients, in order to ensure their best use to generate the social benefits of health. To do this, the course draws on the notion that innovative medicines have led to innovative governance mechanisms, in a relationship based on dialogue.
Shaping Modern Healthcare (10 credits)
This course will be taught online.
This course provides students with an opportunity to explore some of the ways that modern healthcare has been (and is being) shaped by key events, actors, and objects. In particular, it reflects on how these have impacted on law, policy and regulation in the sector, and how this continues to evolve. This course will contextualise and deepen student's understanding of the changing healthcare landscape. It will equip students to navigate a range of primary and secondary sources in order to advance arguments and positions at this intersection of law, policy and regulation. While this course focuses on the UK as its primary jurisdiction, it also provides scope for students to reflect on the issues raised in relation to their home jurisdictions (if different).
Regulating Health and Social Care Professionals (10 credits)
This course will be taught online.
This course provides students with an understanding of the principal legal and policy frameworks that govern the regulation of health and social care professionals in the UK. It has a particular focus on fitness to practise proceedings (for example, where a complaint is made to the General Medical Council about the conduct of a doctor, or the Nursing and Midwifery Council about the conduct of a nurse). This course operates in an area characterised by professional dilemmas. It will equip students to navigate a range of primary and secondary sources in order to advance arguments and positions at this intersection of law, policy and professional practice. While this course focuses on the UK as its primary jurisdiction, it also provides scope for students to reflect on the issues raised in relation to their home jurisdictions (if different).
Please note that courses 'Medical Negligence' and 'Biotechnology, Bioethics and Society', as well as 'Shaping Modern Healthcare' and 'Regulating Health and Social Care Professionals', are co-requisites and must both be taken in the semester in which they run. Biotechnology, Bioethics and Society must be taken together with Medical Negligence. Regulating Health and Social Care Professionals must be taken together with Shaping Modern Healthcare. No other combination is permissible.
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.
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.
Please note that due to unforeseen circumstances or lack of demand for particular courses, we may not be able to run all courses as advertised come the start of the academic year.
If you have any questions about the LLM in Medical Law and Ethics please don’t hesitate to contact us.
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 2020/21 academic year are listed below.
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.
Catriona (also known as Katy) is a Senior Research Fellow in medical law and ethics, working on the Wellcome Trust funded project, 'Confronting the Liminal Spaces of Health Research Regulation.'
In 2013 she graduated with an LLB(hons) from the University of Glasgow, and then went on to obtain an LLM from the London School of Economics and Political Science in 2014. She was awarded her PhD in Medical Law and Ethics, entitled 'The Human Embryo in vitro: A Processual Entity in Legal Stasis' in 2018.
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.
Murray Earle is a Teaching Fellow in medical law. He is a graduate of the University of the Witwatersrand (BA Law & International Relations; BA (Hons) Comparative Literature), and the University of Edinburgh (LLM Medical Jurisprudence & the Sociology of Law; and PhD in Medical Law).
Murray started his career as a lecturer in medical law at the University of Glasgow, while completing his PhD. That was followed by work as a Senior Researcher at the Scottish Parliament Information Centre (SPICe, 2000-2011). From there he developed an independent career, writing, and teaching on, a wide range of online postgraduate medical law courses offered by the School of Law, at the University of Edinburgh. He was also involved in writing for a range of reference publications.
His current teaching is primarily in the Online Distance Learning environment, in a range of medical law courses.
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.
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.
You may also be taught by other leading experts and practitioners.
The staff teaching on this programme are subject to change for 2021/22. Staff listed as on sabbatical will not be available to teach for the duration of their sabbatical.
If you have any questions about the LLM in Medical Law and Ethics please don’t hesitate to contact us.
Find out what it's like to study for an LLM in Medical Law and Ethics at Edinburgh Law School from our current and former students.
My name is Chris Maragh; I am a healthcare professional from Ontario, Canada. I have over seven years of experience in the field.
I attended the University of Edinburgh and pursued an LLM in Medical Law and Ethics because I have a broad interest in learning how the law can improve health systems.
Based on this interest, the programme exceeded my expectations. I learned how law, policy, governance, and ethics could improve the health of the population and the delivery of health programmes and services. I also learned many skills and tools that are applicable to any health system. Particularly, ethical and legal theories that can evaluate the efficacy of strategies, policies, and laws pertaining to health and social care. This is all attributed to the teaching staff that I would describe as experts in the field who are dedicated to helping students grow personally and professionally. I would highly recommend this programme to anyone who desires to navigate and solve complex problems related to medical law and ethics.
Last but not least, Edinburgh is a safe and beautiful place to live and study. It is hard to give a brief description of the city; however, I will say that there something for everyone in the city – culture, nature, history, and nightlife. My most memorable moments were exploring Scotland and developing friendships with people from across the globe.
Chris studied the LLM in Medical Law and Ethics in the academic year 2019-20, graduating in 2020.
Emma, from the USA, studied for an LLM in Medical Law and Ethics in the 2019/20 academic year, graduating in 2020. In this video she talks about his experience of studying for an LLM at Edinburgh Law School, life in Edinburgh, completing her studies during the Covid-19 pandemic and her plans for the future.
Kathryn, from Scotland, studied for an LLM in Medical Law and Ethics in the 2019/20 academic year, graduating in 2020. In this video she talks about her experience of studying for an LLM at Edinburgh Law School, life in Edinburgh, completing her studies during the Covid-19 pandemic and her plans for the future.
Destiny studied the LLM in Medical Law and Ethics in the 2018-19 academic year. In this video she talks about her experience of studying the LLM at Edinburgh Law School.
Claudia talks about her experience of studying for an LLM in Medical Law and Ethics at Edinburgh Law School and life in Edinburgh.
Peter, a Geriatrician from Singapore and originally from Hong Kong, talks about his experience of studying the LLM in Medical Law and Ethics at Edinburgh Law School.
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 in the 2017-18 academic year.
Nasser studied the LLM in Medical Law and Ethics in the academic year 2017-18, graduating in 2018.
When I decided to pursue an LLM in Medical Law and Ethics, Edinburgh was my first choice. Well, actually it was my only choice as I decided to apply to this single place and wait for the response. I like the beautiful city of Edinburgh as well as its friendly people.
Studying the LLM in Medical Law and Ethics with a medical background was a challenging task for me. I had no formal background in law, and this was a concern for me. However, I received assurance on the first day of the programme, when I met Prof. Graeme Laurie, that I will be able to move smoothly, and, this what happened.
I enjoyed the programme and curriculum very much. I started to build on my background, change some conceptions, and even challenge others which I took earlier as a given. The programme was quite interactive throughout the year, with various tasks and tools adding further interest to the programme. I enjoyed interacting with both our instructors and fellow students equally.
The Programme Director, dissertation supervisor and courses lecturers were very helpful and approachable throughout my studies. They handled all concerns positively and professionally. They were supportive and encouraged positive interactions. The programme director was very helpful to address concerns and smoothen the work during the study year. The dissertation supervisor was very approachable and provided excellent guidance throughout the work of the dissertation.
Moreover, I found my extra-curricular learning was as equally fascinating and fruitful. For example, the Mason Institute seminars were particularly useful and provided a boost for the topics we encountered in the programme. This is in addition to many other useful courses that are provided by the University of Edinburgh for its students for free throughout the year.
If there is one thing I regret, it is not doing this programme earlier. Throughout this year, I felt like a member of the Medical Law and Ethics family. I enjoyed the learning opportunity as well as the company of the people on the programme. I think this LLM in Medical Law and Ethics at the University of Edinburgh is one of the best and it opens the door for future endeavours. As I return to my medical career in Oman, I see clearly how this programme has equipped me with new skills and ways of thinking that further enhance my professional work.
Gabriel studied the LLM in Medical Law and Ethics in the academic year 2017-18, graduating in 2018.
"As a lawyer, I have been working on health issues in Chile for almost a decade, mainly in public institutions such as the Ministry of Health and the Superintendence of Health. This allowed me to understand the problems and challenges in the area of health, requiring a critical and multidisciplinary approach to face and resolve them.
I decided to study a Masters degree related to topics that could be applied to future challenges related to legal and ethical issues in the health area, which have a massive impact on the lives of all people and communities.
Through the LLM in Medical Law and Ethics at the University of Edinburgh, I was set on finding a multidisciplinary and critical approach to these subjects. In addition, I was interested in the more complex aspects of regulations on medicine and health, and the associated ethical problems beyond the purely legal approach.
Why this LLM at the University of Edinburgh? The LLM in Medical Law and Ethics covers all the relevant topics associated with this discipline, including contemporary problems, issues related to risks and regulation, the constant emergence of biotechnology, and the complex balance between governance and innovation in medicine. The University of Edinburgh is one of the best universities in the world according to international rankings and its programme has proven to be rigorous, continual and innovative. Plus, Edinburgh is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe and its people are wonderful.
My expectations for this post graduate degree programme were widely exceeded. The LLM perfectly combines the current aspects and challenges in the area of medical law with a broad view of its regulations and problems, and it incorporates complex argumentative tools and resources of ethical analysis. The professors play a fundamental role in providing a high level vision of the discipline and in students having a high level of participation in the intellectual exchange. As a result, the global and enriched vision allows programme participants to explore different problems in a sophisticated manner and in more depth than a mere aggregate of knowledge. This has been a great contribution in my current work regarding solving the health problems of the population and in an eventual reform of my country’s health system."
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.
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 7.0 in the writing component and 6.5 in each other module)
- TOEFL-iBT (including Special Home Edition): total 100 (at least 25 in writing and 23 in each other module)
- CAE and CPE: total 185 (at least 185 in writing and 176 in each other 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 also 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.
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.
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.
English language support
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.
Due to high demand, the school operates a number of selection deadlines. We will make a small number of offers to the most outstanding candidates on an ongoing basis, but hold the majority of applications until the next published selection deadline when we will offer a proportion of the places available to applicants selected through a competitive process.
Deadlines for applicants applying to study in 2021/22 are provided in the table below.
|Round||Application deadline||Decisions by|
|1||11 December 2020||09 February 2021|
|2||05 March 2021||09 April 2021|
|3||14 May 2021||29 June 2021|
|4||30 June 2021||30 July 2021|
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.
Please note that the deadline for meeting the conditions of an offer is 31 August 2021.
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.
Students at this University must not undertake any other concurrent credit bearing studies in this (or in any other) institution, unless the College has granted permission. The College must be satisfied that any additional credit-bearing studies will not restrict the student’s ability to complete their existing programme of study. Students will not be permitted to undertake concurrent degree programmes in any circumstances.
If you are studying at this or another institution just prior to the start of your postgraduate studies you must have finished these studies before the start of the programme to which you have an offer.
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
Please note that if you receive an offer of a place to study the LLM in Medical Law and Ethics and later decide that you do not want to accept your place, we do not allow deferrals. In this case you would have to reapply for the following academic year.
You can find full and detailed application guidance on the University's website.
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.