LAWSG176 Bioethics Governance
|LAWSG176: BIOETHICS GOVERNANCE|
|Credit value:||30 credits (15 ECTS, 300 learning hours)|
|Teaching Delivery:||20 x 2-hour weekly seminars, 10 seminars per term, Term One and Two|
|Who may enrol:||Any UCL Master’s student|
|Must not be taken with:||None|
|Qualifying module for:||LLM in Criminal Justice, Family and Social Welfare
LLM in Jurisprudence and Legal Theory
LLM in Public Law
|Practice Assessment:||Opportunity for feedback on one optional practice essay per term (two in total)|
|Final Assessment:||One 6,000-word essay (100%)|
Bioethical issues are both controversial and important. They present challenges both of substance and process. They raise important questions about the nature of societies; their tolerance of moral pluralism, their approaches to political authority and the values that underpin their conceptions of the public good. They also raise important issues about regulatory tools, including the nature and role of law. This course draws on both the research and practical experience of the Convenor, who has served on a wide range of ‘public ethics’ bodies, including as chair of the Nuffield Council of Bioethics (the nearest that the UK has to a national ethics committee), the Health Research Authority and the Human Genetics Commission.
The course aims to give students the opportunity to explore key issues and principles in the governance of bioethical issues in liberal democracies through a combination of conceptual analysis and the examination of case studies. It considers some key problems in the definition and theory of bioethics, including its nature and scope, and critically examines the question of whether it is a discipline in its own right or a field of study. The course also examines bioethics as a governance practice, whereby issues are deliberated and sometimes regulated using social institutions (e.g. commissions, courts, licensing bodies). This is a practice that raises important questions about authority and the ‘enforcement of morality’ in a pluralist society. As well as appraising such approaches, the course also explores whether bioethics governance may have extended its reach too far, whether into private morality or into areas that should be governed under a different paradigm.
Case studies are used to explore a range of governance options and assess their strengths and weaknesses. These are drawn principally from the UK, with selected international comparisons. Thematic Issues include questions of globalisation (are principles and practices universal or country specific?), legitimacy (limits on state authority in areas of moral controversy); democracy (representation, deliberation); constitutionalism (Parliamentary sovereignty, separation of powers), the politics of evidence and ‘expertise’. Regulatory options considered include prohibition, market regulation, licensing, structured decision-making, professional norms, test-case litigation, and judicial oversight.
Module reading lists and other module materials will be provided via online module pages, once students have made their module selections upon enrolment.
This a new area, not previously brought together into a single analysis and there is no single text. A useful overview can be found in the UNESCO document, National Bioethics Committees in Action (UNESCO 2010), which is downloadable from http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0018/001895/189548e.pdf.