Module leader: Dr Stephen W. Smith
The aim of this module is to explore some key aspects of criminal law and its relation to medicine. The focus will be on the arrangements in England and Wales, but where appropriate reference will be made to comparative material from other countries.
The actions of doctors are coming under increased scrutiny by the law, including the criminal law. This impacts not only how doctors do their jobs and what they see their role in society to be but also what the public can expect from doctors. Moreover, since doctors are also regulated by other governmental or official bodies (e.g. General Medical Council), the specific duties of doctors may conflict and the way the law deals with these conflicts can be especially important. This course, then, looks at a number of issues where the criminal law has an influence on the role of health care practitioners and analyses the impact of the law.
However, since health care practitioners are also governed by ethical requirements, a major part of the course involves philosophical and ethical discussions. It is therefore imperative that those studying the course be prepared to think carefully about the role of ethics within health care and comparisons between a doctor’s ethical and legal duties. Thus, this option is best suited for those students who are interested in questions of theory and ethics in addition to questions about the criminal law and its place within medical law.
The doctor-patient relationship and its impact on the criminal law.
How confidentiality between doctors and patients affects the doctor's duty to warn others of potential criminal offences.
The doctor's duty to testify or help police investigations, and how confidentiality may be an evidentiary barrier to investigating wrong-doing by doctors.
The use of criminal law sanctions such as assault and criminal negligence against doctors.
How the criminal law deals with public health crises like the intentional infection of others with the HIV/AIDS virus.
The use of the criminal law to deal with abuses of the medical system by persons such as Harold Shipman.
The impact of the criminal law on medical practice at the beginning of life, with special emphasis on abortion, infanticide and the treatment of severely deformed children.
The impact of the criminal law on medical issues at the end of life, including the withdrawal and witholding of life-sustaining treatment, Do Not Treat orders, euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide.
Methods of assessment
Modules on the LLM programmes will be assessed in one of the following ways. As this website is set up in advance, it is not possible to specify which method of assessment will be implemented for each module.
One 3-hour written examination
If you'd like to find out how a module will be assessed in the forthcoming academic year please contact the LLM Programmes Administrator at Law-LLM@contacts.bham.ac.uk.