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Health Care Ethics & Law

MSc. in Healthcare Ethics and Law
This programme provides participants with an opportunity to gain a deeper and more systematic understanding of ethical and legal issues in relation to healthcare; to explore the moral problems which they face in their work; to recognise issues raising potential legal liability; and to understand healthcare practice in its legal and social context.

The programme caters for medical, nursing and allied professionals and administrators who feel the need for an opportunity to review and update their thinking about ethical issues including medical and nursing teachers, nurses, GPs, consultants, ethics committee members, hospital administrators and officials in government department with responsibilities for healthcare. Members of the legal profession, pharmaceutical industry and other professionals such as hospital chaplains will find it of benefit to their professional lives.

1) Learning Outcomes
The programme will provide participants with:

A comprehensive understanding of the major theoretical bases of the principles of heath care ethics and health care law

The ability to analyse the real implications of moral and legal theories, especially theories of justice, for both society and the individual

The appropriate frameworks necessary to analyse and critically evaluate claims based on expert knowledge

An enhanced capacity to reflect upon, analyse, critically evaluate and articulate their own ethical position

Leadership and expertise in the are of healthcare ethics and law

An awareness of how ethics in healthcare relates to the practice of healthcare in different contexts

A deeper respect for the importance of inter-professional teamwork and interagency co-operation

An enhanced capacity to benefit from both inter-professional and inter-disciplinary education

Entry requirements

Admission requirements:
Applicants must hold a primary degree or equivalent qualification.


2 years part-time

The programme is delivered part-time over a two year period. Eight modules in total will be delivered and participants will complete a dissertation. In the first year there are 5 modules and in the second year 3 modules. Lectures are delivered once per month (Friday and Saturday). Year 1 x 9 teaching blocks, Year 2 x 3 teaching blocks.

Participants will be expected to attend lectures, tutorials and case studies throughout the programme.

Further enquiries

Contact details
Laura Hayes
Programme Coordinator
00353 1 402 2304

Subjects taught

In Year 1 Modules 1-5 are delivered and in Year 2 modules 6-8 are delivered. On successful completion of assessment of each module and completion of a dissertation participants will be awarded the MSc in Healthcare Ethics & Law.

Module 1: Introduction to Healthcare Ethics & Law
Healthcare Ethics Theory provides an introduction to the range of concepts and theories in healthcare ethics. Participants will be introduced to the major contemporary perspectives, relate these perspectives to selected ethical issues in medicine and science and be introduced to or become familiar with research methods in healthcare ethics, in preparation for more sustained independent study. Topics to be covered will include: (i) principles of healthcare ethics, (ii) deontology and consequentialism, (iii) autonomy, (iv) theories of justice and rationing and (v) alternatives to principlism, including narrative and virtual ethics and feminist ethics. Healthcare Law provides introduces some of the central issues in healthcare law which arise in relation to almost every interaction between health carers and patients. Topics will include: (i) introduction to law and legal methods, (ii) introduction to consent, including competence/incompetence, informed consent and voluntariness, (iii) introduction to treatment of the incompetent patient, comprising both incompetent adults and minors, (iv) introduction to confidentiality and patients' rights of access to healthcare records and (v) introduction to clinical negligence.

Module 2: The Beginning of Life – Ethical & Legal Issues
This module explores a range of ethical, legal and professional issues at the beginning of life. Participants will explore: (i) when does human life begin? (ii) the ethical and legal status of the embryo and foetus (including termination of pregnancy, genetic testing/screening and research) and (iii) ethical and legal issues surrounding assisted reproduction including reproductive technologies, surrogacy, professional and regulatory guidance.

Module 3: Autonomy and Paternalism
Is paternalism ever acceptable? Is lying to patients always wrong? To what extent should patients have control over their own medical treatment? To what extent should doctors use their discretion to keep information from patients? Topics covered include medical negligence, ethical and legal issues raised in consent to treatment, confidentiality.

Module 4: The End of Life – Ethical and Legal Issues
A range of ethical, legal and professional issues at the end of life are explored: (i) moral and legal issues surrounding the definition of death (e.g. "brain death" and its relevance to organ transplantation), (ii) moral issues at the end of life, especially arguments for and against euthanasia, (iii) legal and professional issues at the end of life, including the legal and professional guidance relating to euthanasia, refusing, withholding and withdrawing treatment, and administering potentially fatal drugs, as well as arguments for and against current legal and professional responses.

Module 5: Public Health
Areas normally covered include justice and resource allocation, research ethics, discrimination and healthcare, organ transplantation, issues raised by new technologies. There is normally a session that looks at a topical issue in public health policy.

Module 6: Research Methods
This module will provide participants with the tools and skills necessary to apply appropriate research methodologies to complete a dissertation.

Module 7: Implications of the New Genetics
This module explores the new genetic advances in science and their implications for ethics and law such as genetic testing, stem cell development and cloning.

Module 8 :Dissertation
Participants will complete a dissertation on a major subject of their own choice within healthcare ethics & law.


The programme is awarded by the National University of Ireland and the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland. The programme is at Level 9 of the National Framework of Qualifications.

Assessment method

Each module is assessed by examination or assignment. A 25,000 word dissertation must also be completed.

Application date

How to apply
Applications for the MSc Healthcare Ethics & Law programme, which commences in September each year must be made through the online application link below.

Applications are closed for the 2018-19 intake.

For queries or a possibility of a late application please email

Course fee

€4045 per year. Students have the option of paying in installments.

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