Medical Law Dissertation Topic Examples

1. If assisted suicide is to be permitted, it is essential that Parliament decides on legislation which, apart from the permission to assist the dying, includes suitable safeguards of an appropriate rigour and specificity.

As the curse of assisted suicide looms over Parliament, the debate has become increasingly heated in relation to whether or not it should be legalised. Current problems encircling the range and application of the Suicide Act 1961 in relation to aiding and abetting suicide have shed light on concerns for future legalisation of assisted suicide. Yet are such fears based on erred assumptions of abuse and mistaken definitions as to the sanctity of life? This study will explore the inevitability of the legalisation of assisted suicide and evaluate how such legislation can safeguard society against abuse and error. It is predicted that such legislation will be extremely restrictive in nature and scope to ease fears of abuse, though whether such rigour is desirable will be questioned. The moral implications of assisted suicide will also be explored in order to propose that, while safeguards are necessary, they need not be as stringent as some demand.

Suggested Reading

  • Bennion, FAR 2009. 'Assisted Suicide: A Constitutional Change', Criminal Law and Justice Weekly, vol. 173, no. 519.
  • Callahan, D & Keown, J 1995. Euthanasia Examined: Ethical, Clinical and Legal Perspectives, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Finnis, JM 1993. 'Bland: Crossing the Rubicon', Law Quarterly Review, vol. 109, no. 329.
  • Keown, J 2002. Euthanasia, Ethics and Public Policy, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Smartt, U 2009. 'Euthanasia and the Law', Criminal Law and Justice Weekly, vol. 173, no. 7.

2. Examine the moral and legal issues surrounding abortion.

The delicate debate surrounding the issue of abortion is extremely important, despite the fact that no agreement may be reached on the issue. It does however concern a wide variety of concepts such as human rights, ethics, and legal rights. Abortion similarly sparks the debate between law and morality. UK law contains an array of co-existing, intertwining legislative provisions such as the Abortion Act 1967, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990 and the Human Rights Act 1998. Despite the fact the abortion is an extremely broad topic, this study will conduct a concentrated analysis which focuses upon the law's approach to abortion. This of course requires that moral issues be touched upon, though they will be closely linked to the legal content of legislation. Do theories of justice and rights support or contend abortion? Can there ever be reconciliation between the legal and moral aspects of abortion?

Suggested Reading

  • Boyle, M 1997. Re-Thinking Abortion: Psychology, Gender, Power and the Law, London: Routledge.
  • Esser, A & Koch, HG 2005. Abortion and the Law: From International Comparison to Legal Policy, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Glover, J 1977. Causing Death and Saving Lives, New York: Penguin.
  • Hursthouse, R 1991. 'Virtue Theory and Abortion', Philosophy and Public Affairs, vol. 20, no. 3.

3. Medical Research is one of the battlefields in which on-going ideological warfare is being waged over whether human beings should be respected as ends or whether they can be treated as mere means. Critically reflect on medical research law and practice in light of this statement.

The increased complexity and ever-revealed benefits of medical research have in turn increased the delicacy of ethical issues related to this topic. Both the social and legal arenas have struggled to take reasoned stances on whether medical research can be justified. Despite its critics, the need for medical research has never been completely eradicated; our desire to perpetually exist thus comes into direct conflict with our desire to live free and unhindered lives. When applied to the possibility of non-consensual medical research, this observation becomes all the more important in terms of determining which element is the most valued. This study will explore how the law deals with the interests of the community in relation to medical research. What are the boundaries and how have they shifted over time? Are they likely to shift even more, and which direction are they likely to take? It will ultimately be demonstrated that individual rights can be balanced against the collective good of society; a balance which has already been attempted in current legislation.

Suggested Reading

  • Campbell, A & Glass, KC 2001. 'The Legal Status of Clinical and Ethics Policies, Codes, and Guidelines in medical Practice and Research', McGill Law Journal, vol. 46, no. 473.
  • Foster, C 2001. Ethics of Medical Research on Humans, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Glendon, MA 1994. Rights Talk: The Impoverishment of Political Discourse, New York: Free Press.
  • Harris, J 2005. 'Scientific Research is a Moral Duty', Journal of Medical Ethics, vol. 31, no. 244.
  • Herring, J 2010. Medical Law and Ethics, 3rd ed, New York: Oxford University Press.

4. Does the UK Require laws to permit organ retention? Argue both for and against this issue.

The law pertaining to organ retention is a profoundly controversial subject, attracting differing and conflicting views, and also the cause of considerable concern. Following a number of shocking incidents in which organs were removed from dead patients without the consent of family members, the process of more closely regulating organ retention began. The resulting legislation was the Human Tissue Act 2004; a provisions that has received as much praise as it has criticism. More than purely legislative in scope, organ retention poses a variety of ethical questions, namely those of consent, rights, and interests. When applied to the deceased the issue becomes all the more delicate and complex. This study will explore the issues concerning organ retention, evaluating the arguments both for and against legalisation in a bid to arrive at a plausible proposal. It will ultimately be suggested that the definitive answer is not entirely obvious, though upon a balance of arguments the outcome has the potential to favour legalisation. It indeed depends upon the extent to which one values the need for consent and the way in which one balances individual and collective interests.

Suggested Reading

  • Brazier, M 2005. 'Organ Retention and Return: Problems of Consent', Journal of Medical Ethics, vol. 29, no. 30.
  • Clemmons, A 2009. 'Organ Transplantation: Is the Best Approach a Legalized Market or Altruism?', Journal of Healthcare Management, vol. 54, no. 4.
  • Foster, C 2001. Ethics of Medical Research on Humans, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Kennedy, I & Grubb, A 2000. Medical Law, 3rd edn, London: Butterworths.
  • Morgan, D 2001. Issues in Medical law and Ethics, London: Cavendish.

5. Critically consider the notion of 'Sanctity of Life' offering contrasting alternatives as guiding overarching principles within the context of termination of life of individuals involving healthcare professionals.

The issue of euthanasia is the Achilles Heel of any rights theorist who attempts to define the sanctity of life as the core basis of the absolute right to life. Many have embarked upon the quest to fit assisted suicide, active and passive, voluntary and involuntary within their subjective network of morality, autonomy or harm. This has indeed furnished useful debate which has greatly weakened and convincingly undermined the sanctity of life as an absolute principle. This study will explore how the sanctity of life can be justifiably derogated from in order to strengthen the argument for euthanasia. Issues pertaining to justice, rights and the absoluteness of the sanctity of life will be critically evaluated, though it will be ultimate demonstrated that it would be an abuse of the sanctity of life to uphold it in situations where an individual wishes to die.

Suggested Reading

  • Behuniak, SM & Svenson, AG 2003. Physician-Assisted Suicide: The Anatomy of a Constitutional Law Issue, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield.
  • Callahan, D & Keown, J 1995. Euthanasia Examined: Ethical, Clinical and Legal Perspectives, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Gewirth, A 1989. 'Are There Any Absolute Rights?' in J Waldron (ed), Theories of Rights, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Keown, J 2002. Euthanasia, Ethics and Public Policy, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Paterson, C 2008. Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia: A Natural Law Ethics Approach, Hampshire: Ashgate.

6. "If a woman wishes to be sterilised, and in a legal way causes herself to be operated on for that purpose, I can, for my part, see no reason why, under public policy, she should not recover such financial damage as she can prove she sustained by the surgeon's failure to perform the operation properly, whether or not the child is healthy." Slade LJ in Emeh v Kensington and Chelsea and Westminster Area Health Authority [1984] 3 All ER 1044 (CA). Discuss this statement critically, taking account of subsequent House of Lords decisions.

The case of Emeh floats amongst a sea of decisions relating to the right of parents to seek damages for the birth of an unwanted child. This study will assess the cases leading up to, and more importantly following the decision because they signify the difficulties that the courts have encountered in arriving at a suitable stance on the issue. The case law timeline reveals a marked shift in the attitude of the courts in relation to this delicate issue, though there are also evident difficulties in determining the scope of the law. This study will seek to explain the reasoning behind important and landmark decisions, and evaluate how damages, if rewarded, are calculated. Attention will also be given to the important issue concerning damages for unwanted healthy children as opposed to unwanted disabled children.

Suggested Reading

  • Brantley, JR 1976. 'Wrongful Birth: The Emerging Status of a New Tort', St Mary's Law Journal, vol. 8, no. 140.
  • Hoyano, L 2002. 'Misconceptions about Wrongful Conception', Michigan Law Review, vol. 65, no. 883.
  • Jackson, E 2001. Regulating Reproduction, Oxford: Hart Publishing.
  • Stretton, D 2005. 'The Birth Torts: Damages for Wrongful Birth and Wrongful Life', Deakin Law Review, vol. 10, no. 1.

7. The Abortion Act should be amended in order to give adequate protection to the rights of the father.

While in any case the debate surrounding abortion is heated and tense, the side issue relating to the rights of the father in abortion cases renders the topic of abortion all the more controversial. This study will address this particularly taxing topic, and evaluate whether the rights and interests of the father can be implemented when the mother wishes to terminate the pregnancy. There is a notable difference across the globe in the context of the father's rights, and the UK's historical approach grants the father remarkably few paternal rights. This approach immediately attracts criticism, particularly since the passing of the Abortion Act 1967. Those who are vested in the interests of the father fight the lack of interests given to men in comparison to women, and argue that both parents should be given equal rights. Yet despite the apparent discriminatory nature of UK legislation, could it ever be justifiable to force a woman to give birth when she does not wish to? It will be ultimately argued that the right of the mother to bodily integrity should always prevail the rights of the father, for the infringement of the former's rights is far greater when she is forced to give birth. This stance has, as will be recognised, been declared compatible with the European Convention of Human Rights.

Suggested Reading

  • Beckwith, FJ 2007. Defending Life: A Moral and Legal Case Against Abortion Choice, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Collins, K 2000. 'When Father's Rights are Mother's Duties: The Failure of Equal Protection in Miller v Albright', Yale Law Journal, vol. 2, no. 109.
  • Harris, GW 1986. 'Fathers and Fetuses', Ethics, vol. 96, no. 3.
  • Mason, K & Laurie, G 1994. Mason & McCall Smith's Law and Medical Ethics, 4th edn, London: Butterworths.

8. Examine the Medical Controversies Surrounding Stem Cell Research, particularly in light of research for aesthetic purposes.

The frontiers that have been endlessly conquered by medical research are coming to know fewer and fewer bounds. Yet as the extent and range of the benefits provided by medical research grow in complexity and variation, the controversial nature of the topic becomes all the more prominent. It is clear that the greater the medical benefits promised, the higher the ethical hurdles such treatment and research must overcome. The relatively new existence of stem cell research has caused the debate to ignite further, as new techniques promise endless potential yet threaten the lives of others. This study will attempt to weigh the life of the unborn foetus I relation to embryonic stem cell research and the benefits to be gain by such research. Can such research be permitted on moral grounds? Can we kill for medicine, if not for beauty? Could this lead to the conclusion that we may also kill for beauty? These delicate questions will be addressed in this study which will seek to arrive at a suitable conclusion in the bid for human perfection.

Suggested Reading

  • Baier, K 2008. 'The Sanctity of Life', Journal of Social Philosophy, vol. 5, no. 2.
  • Banchoff, T 2005. 'Path Dependence and Value-Driven Issues: The Comparative Politics of Stem Cell Research', World Politics, vol. 12, no. 57.
  • Blackford, R 2006. 'Stem Cell Research on other Worlds, or why Embryos do not have a Right to Life', Journal of Medical Ethics, vol. 32, no. 3.
  • Chappell, TDJ 1995. Understanding Human Goods, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
  • Foster, C 2001. Ethics of Medical Research on Humans, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

9. Practical and Fair Redress for Clinical Negligence.

In the UK it has been argued that the clinical negligence litigation system is too cumbersome, complex and costly. Indeed, medical malpractice litigation has cost both the NHS and patients considerable time and expense. This study examines how the NHS Redress Scheme could be redesigned to ensure fair and practical redress for clinical negligence claims by referring to current proposals and recommendations. A variety of improvements and reforms will be proposed, all of which seek to eradicate current problems in the system.

Suggested Reading

  • Harpwood, V 2007. Medicine, Malpractice and Misapprehensions, Oxon: Routledge-Cavendish.
  • Farrell, AM & Devaney, S 2007. 'Making Amends or Making Things Worse? Clinical Negligence Reform and Patient Redress in England', Legal Studies, vol. 27, no. 630.
  • Kohn, LT et al 2000. To Err Is Human: Building a Safer Health System, London: National Academy Press.
  • Mulcahy, L et al 2000. Mediating Medical Negligence Claims: An Option for the Future?, London: The Stationary Office.

10. Judges are poorly equipped to regulate healthcare practice and are increasingly blind to their weaknesses. The only reason to encourage judicial intervention is that the alternatives are even less satisfactory.

In examining the competence of judges to regulate healthcare practice it is necessary to establish exactly what the role of the judge is in such cases. This in itself requires complex analysis, though it provides the basis upon which evaluation can proceed. A critical evaluation of the alternative will be explored in order to arrive at a conclusion as to which option is the most suitable for healthcare cases. It will ultimately be concluded that bringing healthcare disputes before the courts serves to validate the work of medical professionals. If judges continue to adopt a 'best interests' approach then their regulation of healthcare will remain the best option. Similarly, introducing rigid legal rules will unnecessarily restrict the ability of judges to approach issues on a case by case basis. Ultimately, and alternative method of solving medical disputes is not immediately apparent and until a plausible option arises, judges will naturally remain the most appropriate regulators of healthcare law.

Suggested Reading

  • Harpwood, V 2007. Medicine, Malpractice and Misapprehensions, Oxon: Routledge-Cavendish.
  • Kennedy, I & Grubb, A 2000. Medical Law, 3rd edn, London: Butterworths.
  • Morgan, D 2001. Issues in Medical law and Ethics, London: Cavendish.