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The University of Southampton

LAWS3141 Law and the Human Body

Module Overview

Law and the Human Body investigates legal and ethical problems at the intersection of medicine, biotechnology and the law, particularly the approach of law to questions arising from the biotechnological uses of cadavers, body parts and products of the body. The module provides knowledge and understanding of how law and ethics resolve disputes relating to conflicting claims over ownership of inventions based on human body parts, and the question of entitlement to profits from such inventions; it also examines the legal protections available to a person when separated parts of their body are used without their consent; and the remedies available to living relatives when the dead are mutilated without consent.

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • the historical and modern uses of the human body and body parts in science and medicine, and the scandals that accompanied pioneering anatomical and pharmaceutical uses of the human body and body parts;
  • how the human body and body parts are categorised in law for the purpose of making claims in court in relation to an unauthorised interference;
  • the legal difficulties that impair the grant of remedies for non-consensual uses of body parts;
  • the important role of property law and property theory in dealing with problems relating to the human body and body parts;
  • the laws governing the disposition and exhumation of dead bodies.
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • produce effectively reasoned and structured responses to a given statement or proposition, which are adequately supported by reference to legal authority;
  • communicate in writing an understanding of law and the human body, its application to the solution of legal problems and the formulation of effective argument with clear and accurate use of language and legal terminology.
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • analyse, interpret and evaluate complex material;
  • formulate an effective, comprehensible, reasoned and structured argument;
  • effectively communicate and present written arguments supported by appropriate evidence, demonstrating an appreciation of academic integrity.


The topics to be considered within the module are, indicatively: 1. Historical and modern uses of the human body and the scandals that followed; 2. Mortuary law and jurisprudence, and the control of burial; 3. Legal nature of burial plots; 4. Exhumation; 5. Difficulties in providing judicial remedies for interference with the human body and body parts; 6. Proprietary approach to the human body and body parts.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

The teaching programme comprises 10 x 2 hour weekly seminars. Teaching methods include: • Seminars (two-hour weekly seminars) of tutor led discussion structured around suggested preparation for each session to provide you with knowledge and information and to enable you to be critical about that knowledge and information; • Pre-prepared questions focused on developing your problem solving skills. Learning activities include: • Identifying and locating primary and secondary (including electronic) legal sources relevant to the law and the human body; • Developing your legal skills in identifying, analysing and synthesising a range of legal materials from legislation, case law, policy documents and academic literature to contemporary debates over the law and the human body; • Directed reading assisted by reading lists; • Accessing electronic resources in the form of legislation, journals and case materials; • Researching sources from primary sources of legislation, case law to secondary sources of books, journals and policy papers; • Reviewing and critically evaluating complex material; • Developing knowledge of, and ability to explain orally and in writing, the principles of substantive law and key policy objectives surrounding contemporary issues in law and the human body through seminar preparation and discussion and formative assessment; • Formulating and presenting, in both oral and written form, comprehensible reasoned and structured critical and evaluative argument through seminar preparation and discussion and formative assessment; • Tackling and solving factual legal problems; • Participating in constructive oral group discussion and debate; • Managing tasks within a given time frame.

Preparation for scheduled sessions30
Wider reading or practice40
Follow-up work18
Completion of assessment task10
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Other. A reading list – posted on Blackboard – is provided which includes relevant cases, legislation, journal articles, books chapters, Law Commission reports, policy documents etc. as appropriate.

NWabueze, R.N., (2007). Biotechnology and the Challenge of Property. 

Other. Primary sources including cases and statutes, and some secondary sources (primarily journal articles) are available in paper and electronic form, the latter through electronic books and legal databases, provided by the library or otherwise publically accessible via the worldwide web.



Mock Examination


MethodPercentage contribution
Coursework 100%


MethodPercentage contribution
Written assessment 100%


MethodPercentage contribution
Written assessment 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External


Costs associated with this module

Students are responsible for meeting the cost of essential textbooks, and of producing such essays, assignments, laboratory reports and dissertations as are required to fulfil the academic requirements for each programme of study.

In addition to this, students registered for this module typically also have to pay for:

Books and Stationery equipment

There are no cost implications for this module because there is no set book and other resources will be freely accessible via the modules Blackboard pages and the Library’s resources.

Please also ensure you read the section on additional costs in the University’s Fees, Charges and Expenses Regulations in the University Calendar available at

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