The University of Southampton
Courses

LAWS6127 Public Health Ethics and Law

Module Overview

The module provides students with a firm grounding both in theoretical and practical questions implicated in the study of public health, ethics, and law. The first half of the module focuses on big theoretical and legal concepts, theories, and questions. The second half focuses on specific case studies from public health policy and practice, allowing you to apply the knowledge and skills acquired throughout the course to practical problems.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

This module is relevant for both domestic and international contexts. It aims to: • Provide you with the skills to understand ethical and political arguments, and their relationship with public health policy and practices. • Develop your understanding of law and regulation and their application and limitations in the context of public health problems. • Develop your ability to frame legal, moral, and political arguments concerning public health, both in theoretical terms and in relation to specific public health policies and practices.

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

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

  • Understand public health ethics, and the role and function of ethical arguments in policy debates.
  • Appreciate the nature of law and regulation, and the strengths, limitations, and weaknesses of law and regulation in public health practice.
  • Understand claims about responsibility for health, and distinguish obligations that require regulatory intervention from ‘purely moral’ obligations.
  • Produce intelligent critiques of law and ethics concerning public health, and using these propose changes to law, policy, and practice.
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Recognise and debate the legal, social, moral, and political contexts of public health.
  • Understand the difference between moral and political arguments about health.
  • Critique ethical problems in public health according to dominant schools of thought in political and ethical theory.
  • Evaluate the legitimacy of public health law and policy.
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Apply key distinctions in legal, moral, and political theory to issues in public health.
  • Participate in public consultations and legal and policy development.
  • Communicate ethical and political arguments about public health issues to specialist and non-specialist audiences.
Subject Specific Practical Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Advocate for sound, ethically supported public health policy and practice, using well-constructed and informed arguments.
  • Use ethical and legal research methods in the study of public health issues.
Disciplinary Specific Learning Outcomes

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Understand, research, and apply works from ethics, law, and regulation.

Syllabus

The module provides you with a firm grounding both in theoretical and practical questions implicated in the study of public health, ethics, and law. The first half of the module focuses on big theoretical and legal concepts, theories, and questions. The second half focuses on specific case studies from public health policy and practice, allowing you to apply the knowledge and skills acquired throughout the course to practical problems. The module covers: • The Scope of Public Health: drawing from policy documents that define public health, and instruments and arguments that present the ‘jurisdiction’ of public health. Analysis will draw from works on the philosophy of public health, and distinct categorisations of public health. • Ethics, of, for, and in Public Health: presenting different means of understanding ethics, drawing from health ethics and law as fields of study, to include leading works, textbooks, and professional ethical codes. Analysis will be interdisciplinary (legal, moral, and political), and also relate to professional ethics and governance. The class will contrast professional-, advocacy, and philosophical ethical approaches. • Health and Rights: drawing from practical sources of rights, including ‘health rights’: e.g. the WHO Constitution, the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, the European Convention on Human Rights. The analysis of these will draw from rights theory and philosophical debates on the meaning of health. • Public Health Ethics: drawing from texts on the nature and meaning of public health ethics, including professional ethical codes, case studies that distinguish the ‘old’ and ‘new public health’, and normative arguments concerning the social determinants of health and responsibility from health. The analysis will be multi-disciplinary, but demonstrate the need to move from moral to political theory with public health ethics. • Public Health Law and Regulation: drawing from texts that define and seek to give a scope to public health law, as well as works in regulatory theory and studies of governmental and professional competences. The analysis will look to professional ethics and governance, and methodology in legal and regulatory scholarship. • Public Health Policy 1: Public Safety: focusing on issues such as pandemic flu; child immunisation; liability for disease transmission. • Public Health Policy 2: ‘Lifestyle Diseases’ and ‘Unhealthy Living’: focusing on issues such as tobacco; alcohol; obesity. • Public Health Policy 3: Population-Level Problems: focusing on issues such as epidemiological research; population screening; resource allocation. • Public Health and Private Industry: Industry Lobbying and Commercial Freedoms: focusing on alcohol industry involvement in the formulation of (public health) policy; private sector involvement in the NHS; occupational health and safety regulation. • Freedoms, Rights, and Obligations: Limits to the ‘Therapeutic State’: focusing on issues such as academic and policy statements about the responsibilities of patients, and the health-related rights and obligations held by people outside of the healthcare paradigm; academic and policy statements about the proper role of the State in regard to assuring the conditions in which people are healthy.

Special Features

Special features of this course include the ability to form ethical critiques, engage in practical policy processes, and present works in public health ethics to interdisciplinary audiences. Lunchtime seminars will be arranged with eminent figures in public health law and ethics. An important feature is that the course gives students the opportunity to engage with module co-ordinators and other scholars who are at the leading edge of the subject.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include • Lecture style presentations from the module tutors • Interactive workshop and seminar discussions • Student-led presentations on public health problems • Small- and whole group analysis and debate Learning activities include • Formative development with written work and oral presentations • Resources provided through Blackboard • Ongoing skills and knowledge-development

TypeHours
Independent Study70
Teaching30
Total study time100

Resources & Reading list

Nuffield Council on Bioethics (2007). Public health – ethical issues. 

Dawson, A. (ed.) (2011). Public Health Ethics Key Concepts and Issues in Policy and Practice. 

Coggon J. (2012). What Makes Health Public? A critical evaluation of moral, legal, and political claims in public health. 

Assessment

Formative

Journal Article

Summative

MethodPercentage contribution
Journal Article  (1500 words) 100%

Repeat

MethodPercentage contribution
Journal Article  (1500 words) 100%

Referral

MethodPercentage contribution
Journal Article  (1500 words) 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

Costs

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:

Textbooks

Recommended texts for this module may be available in limited supply in the University Library and students may wish to purchase the core/recommended text as appropriate.

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 www.calendar.soton.ac.uk.

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