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Duration

12 months full-time; 24 months part-time

Application Deadline

30 June

Location

St George’s, University of London

UK, EU and non-EU

(International) citizens may apply

Start dates

9 September 2024

About this course

Ethics, professionalism and law strongly impact the practice of medicine, while an ethical, regulatory and legal matters permeate modern scientific practice. The Medical Ethics, Law and Humanities postgraduate course introduces students to key perspectives in medical ethics, law and humanities and to problems arising in current healthcare practice and biomedical research. Students will learn and apply humanities, ethics and legal analysis to address ethical, legal and social challenges in medical and scientific practice. 

Healthcare provision and the fruits of research in biomedical sciences are strong contributors to our wellbeing, and an important part of modern societies. Scientific and technological developments, resource distribution pressures and challenges such pandemics and demographic changes require those systems to adapt. Assuring such adaptation will require a coordinated effort from the health sector, policymakers, scientists, communities and a variety of professions in order to promote the common good. Could you be part of helping science and medicine to adapt and to work for the common good?

If you are looking to make a real difference in adding to a reflective, ethical and informed healthcare and scientific practice, our stimulating Medical Ethics, Law and Humanities MA will help you to better understand ethical, legal and social challenges in science and medicine and related policy practices. Reflecting contemporary concerns and areas of research and teaching excellence at St George’s, we offer a course that takes us from insights of history of medicine and scientific innovation, through contemporary problems in medicine, science and global health, to considering future of medicine, biomedical sciences and their regulation.

Highly applied in nature, drawing on experiences of our own faculty and the many practitioners we have links with, this course will be of particular interest to those who already work or wish to pursue a career in healthcare, science, health or science policy, administration, or management, as well as ethics, philosophy, history, law, politics, and science popularisation and writing.

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Programme aims

The programme will:

  • Enable students learn about core ethical and legal concepts, theories and facts [Knowledge]
  • Empower students to analyse and solve problems in ethical, legal and social aspects of medicine and biomedical research [Application]
  • Inspire students to address current societal challenges [Engagement and Activism]
  • Provide the foundations for lifetime training and education in medical ethics, law and the humanities which will enable students to pursue a clinical or non-clinical career in the area [Career]

What will the Medical Ethics, Law and Humanities MA give students?

This course:

  • Provides a critical overview of the current ethical, legal and humanities perspectives on the implications of science and medicine and a stimulating environment to systematically explore them
  • Provides high quality training in medical ethics, biomedical ethics, global health ethics, and medical humanities drawing on the considerable teaching and research strengths of St George’s and its history as a long-standing medical training institution
  • Offers students the opportunity to build an in-depth knowledge of contemporary ethical, legal and humanities approaches to science and medicine
  • Aims to empower candidates to analyse, appraise and address ethical, legal and social challenges in medicine and research
  • Supports students in pursuing their intellectual and professional interests and developing their critical thinking and analytical skills
  • Covers a wide range of topics within applied ethics, including both core issues and emerging areas of research such as neuroethics, future of medicine and AI, global health ethics, humanitarian action ethics
  • Is flexible, allowing students to focus on particular areas of interest (for example clinical ethics, global health, medical humanities and arts, research ethics and ethics of new medical technologies) through a choice from a range of optional modules
  • Encourages engagement with systematic inquiry into biomedical practice to help programme members evaluate and develop professional and societal practices

Entry criteria

To be considered for this course, you will need to:

  • meet the entry criteria
  • write a personal statement
  • provide two suitable references

Undergraduate degree or equivalent

You should have or be expected to achieve, a minimum of a second class degree (2:2). For healthcare graduates, a pass is required. All degrees must be awarded before 1 August on the year of entry.

Intercalating students

Applicants who do not have an undergraduate degree but are current medical students who have successfully completed 360 credits (or equivalent) including at least 120 credits at Level 6 (or equivalent) of their medical degree are also eligible to apply.

International qualifications

We accept equivalent qualifications gained in other countries.

Please see our Postgraduate International Equivalencies. For countries not on this list, we use UK ENIC to assess. Please see our International Student Support pages for more information.

If you have any questions, you can contact us at pgenquiries@sgul.ac.uk

English Language

This is a Group 1 course.

Full details can be found on our English Language requirements webpages.

Personal statement and references

You will be asked to outline your reasons for applying for the course in a brief personal statement on the application form. You will also need to provide two satisfactory references. See the ‘Apply’ tab for more information.

Course structure

By designing the course as a series of related but independent modules, we can deliver a highly flexible programme allowing you to tailor your studies to match your interests and career aspirations.

You can also accrue the appropriate amount of credits to achieve the intermediate awards of Postgraduate Certificate (PgCert) or Postgraduate Diploma (PgDip), building on each qualification over time to achieve your full master’s degree.

The MA is made up of 180 credits and can be studied over one year full-time or two years part-time. You will study four 15-credit compulsory modules common to all students, which will introduce you to applied reasoning in medical ethics and law (Medical Ethics and Law), methods in humanities (Introduction to Medical Humanities) and provide a historically grounded and future-looking perspective on medicine and biomedical sciences (History of Medicine, Future of Medicine Ethics). ). In addition, you will be able to choose from a range of optional modules.  When selecting optional modules, you will need to ensure that half the optional modules focus primarily on the humanities and that half the modules focus primarily on ethics and law.  You will undertake a research project in a topic linked to your themed degree. 

For the PgDip (120 credits), in addition to the compulsory modules, you must choose additional modules to the value of 60 credits. Half of these optional modules must focus primarily on the humanities and half must focus primarily on ethics and law.

Course start date

The course will start with enrolment and induction activities on 9 - 10 September 2024. Topics covered will include the virtual learning platform, library and careers service as well as course specific sessions. There will also be keynote speakers and a social event where students from a variety of postgraduate taught courses can get to know each other.

Compulsory modules

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Medical Ethics and Law (15 credits)

This module explores the ethical and legal issues and underlying concepts in the professional practice of healthcare professionals. This Medical Ethics and Law module is Core to the MA programme, as the knowledge base and associated ethico-legal reasoning skills are considered to underlie all other course elements. It is best conceived of as the practical application of moral philosophy to the clinical arena, with critical examination of associated key legal aspects of healthcare practice.  

Introduction to Medical Humanities (15 credits)

The module introduces key skills and approaches which support students in making the most of the other modules, introducing key methods and approaches in medical humanities. The module will also demonstrate the use of various methodological approaches such as narrative, ethical, philosophical, visual or literary analysis to understand key aspects of healthcare practice and research such as the doctor-patient relationship, experiences of illness, trauma, self, medical treatment and healing. 

History of Medicine (15 credits)

This module will introduce you to the major developments in medical practice and medical thought, as well as the main methodological approaches and debates in the field of medical history. Founded in 1733, St George’s was the second medical school in England to train doctors, allowing us to draw - where appropriate - on St George’s primary archival and other historical sources. The module will give a broad introduction to the early western medical tradition but focus principally on the modern period from 1700 to the present, giving an opportunity to think comparatively about the modern construction of the history of a western tradition of medicine and biomedical research. 

Future of Medicine Ethics (15 credits)

In this module, you will learn how to approach ethics of new medical practices, technologies and developing science, aiming to construct proactive (as opposed to reactive) approaches to ethical analysis and regulation. Technical advances over the last century tremendously changed the practice of medicine. This development continues - today’s medicine is being changed by information technology as well as convergence in neuroscience, genetics, data science, AI and robotics. Cutting-edge science slowly makes its way to the bedside, with recent advances such as IVF, mitochondrial replacement therapy, AI and assistive robots.  How will the practice of biomedicine look like in the future? How will we be born, live and die in the increasingly information-technological biomedical landscape? How should medical care look like in the future? The Future of Medicine Ethics module is a space to examine key trends in the development of medical technologies and associated ethical challenges, as well as develop ethically-informed recommendations for future practice. 

Research Project (60 credits)

You will conduct an independent research project in an area of interest to you. The module covers preparation and planning for the research as well as the analysis, discussion and presentation of the outcomes of the research. You will be supervised by an experienced academic based at St George’s, and will have a chance to either address a topic of pre-existing interest, or be supported in developing a research idea from conception to fruition. This will help to develop and apply a range of transferable, professional and analytical skills.  

Optional modules

Depending on the amount of credits needed, you will choose from the list of optional modules below.

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Clinical Ethics and Law (15 credits)

In this module you will look at the ethical, legal and social aspects of clinical practice. Reflecting on the key concepts that underpin ethical thinking about clinical practice (such as autonomy, paternalism, consent), and discussing ethical and legal dilemmas in clinical practice from the beginning to the end of life provides an opportunity for in depth ethical consideration of clinical practice. Students will also gain tools for a systematic approach to analysis of ethical cases.  

Research Ethics and Law (15 credits)

While scientists enjoy generally high level of public trust, a reflective and engaged approach to ethics in research is necessary for science that aims to deliver public good, scientific knowledge and medical advances. In this module, you will focus on ethical and regulatory aspect of biomedical research. You will gain understanding of the history and rationale for research regulation, reflect on the purpose, role and limitations of our regulatory practices and learn about relevant law, regulation and philosophy. By understanding and critically examining key philosophical and ethical aspects of research ethics and regulation, you will also have an opportunity to engage with current issues affecting scientific and medical research. Key moral theories, concepts and approaches used in research ethics will provide a methods toolkit for this important area of analysis.   

Global Health Ethics and Law (30 credits)

This module considers global health from an ethico-legal perspective. You will learn about cosmopolitanism, nationalism, distributive justice, consequentialism, deontology and human rights theory, using different theoretical approaches to analyse a range of global health challenges. You will also learn about the emergence of global health law and the way in which international law impacts on a range of global health issues. 

Humanitarian Action Ethics (15 credits)

The effects of humanitarian crises are increasingly globalised, as seen with recent trends in migration and forced displacement. Aid workers now respond to increasingly complex crises in which decision making and action can be adversely affected by the changing nature of conflict, climate change or disasters. In addition, humanitarian organisations can come under pressure in volatile political situations, especially when they are structured by extreme religious ideology. This module recognises that humanitarian action is a cross-cultural endeavour, fraught with ethical challenges and conducted against a backdrop of health injustice and vulnerable populations. 

Finding a Leg to Stand On (30 credits)

This module is a new, innovative collaboration between clinicians and artists from St George’s, University of London and academic staff from Birkbeck, University of London. Using an applied medical humanities’ approach, in which the different Humanities disciplines (philosophy, cultural studies, literary studies, sociology, history of art) and Medicine are used as lenses through which to analyse illness, human experience and clinical practice, this module will take the leg as its primary focus. The leg, as a tangible example of a component of the body, allows us to explore the ways in which bodies are constructed culturally, clinically, politically and experientially. The module will explore ideas such as surface and depth, normality and abnormality, presence and loss, visibility and invisibility, beauty and ugliness, illness and health. It will examine the relations between culture, society, the body and illness. What does it mean to be and have a body? How do we speak about and define bodily experience? What happens when the body fails? How do we diagnose and treat the body? Patients and healthcare practitioners might answer these complex questions in very different ways, and yet understandings of those questions underpin medical practice and the experience of patients.  

Neuroethics (15 credits)

In this module you will look at the last decades of swift developments in neuroscience, cognitive science and neuro-technologies from an ethical perspective, and examine some of the most interesting challenges brought forward by modern medicine. Since its conception in 2002, neuroethics as a discipline aimed to address ethical and social challenges raised by the recent boom in neuro- and cognitive science and reflect on the impact of neurotechnologies on patients and the society at large. Brain imaging in clinical practice and research raise issues of privacy, confidentiality and communication of incidental findings. ‘Pictures of the brain’ seem to ‘fire up’ not only neurons of research participants but also viewers’ imagination, and facilitate research on the neural correlates of various cognitive functions, sometimes changing our understanding of what it means to have a ‘free will,’ ‘be responsible’ or even ‘be dead’. But how clinical and non-clinical applications of neurotechnologies impact our autonomy, agency and are the benefits of scientific research and access to those technologies justly distributed? Should we engage in cosmetic pharmacology, pharmacological mood brightening or cognitive enhancement? During the module students will engage with those problems, and gain ethical reasoning tools, concepts and perspectives necessary to address those current questions. 

Culture and Mental Health (15 credits)

In this module, you will learn how mental health can be improved worldwide using different cultural frameworks of mental illness. You will analyse the global development of a mental health framework from an ethical, transcultural and human rights perspective. As part of this analysis, you will explore the theories and principles of humanitarianism. You will also discuss the issues of stigma and the medicalisation of mental disorders, using case scenarios and examples of localised cultural practices in the interpretation and management of mental health. 

Global Health Humanities (15 credits)

In this module, you will examine different aspects of the humanities in global health: narrative-based medicine; the role of the humanities in medical education; cross-cultural concepts of health and illness; exiled writers and health activism; therapeutic aspects of health humanities; cultural competency; global narratives; and story-telling for trauma. You will reflect on and consider topics that you personally perceive as being crucial for global health, and the role of narrative for bringing health injustice and human rights abuses to light for various organisations. During the module you will also learn about the role of narrative in promoting health, particularly in societies facing conflict, oppression and lack of healthcare resources. 

Imagining the Other (15 credits)

Loss, death and bereavement are three of the most extreme and difficult experiences anyone faces. For doctors and other health and social care workers these complex phenomena must be confronted on an almost daily basis. This module uses textual representations of loss, death and bereavement to explore these key issues. We will examine how far reading literature can help us understand the experiences of others i.e., to what extent and in what way can any of us “imagine the other”. We will consider these experiences both in terms of the formation of personal identity and in terms of challenges to an established sense of self and the mutability of personal identity over time. Students will be able to choose from a broad range of literary texts on these themes, complemented by consideration of other art forms, and will compare these to carefully chosen and accessible examples of clinical literature and practice. 

Module availability

It is possible that certain modules listed on the course page may not be able to run due to a variety of reasons, such as availability of specialist academics or patterns of student demand, including limitations due to minimum or maximum class sizes. The University will ensure that all affected parties are notified of any changes as soon as possible and propose relevant alternative options if necessary.

Our approach to teaching and learning

At St George’s, you will benefit from working as part of a small, close-knit team. Students, clinicians and researchers work happily and effectively together, and you will be welcomed into our small specialist research community, with all the advantages that brings for personal input and development.

The nature of the Global Health discipline ensures that we attract a diverse student cohort each year, of different ages, stages of life and professionals from sectors as disparate as medicine and law, which students tell us makes the learning all the more interesting.

They also tell us they like the many opportunities to learn from people working directly and indirectly within the healthcare sector, as well as academics. Where possible, we invite guest lecturers to share their experiences, capitalising on the in-house experts within our own faculty, St George’s Hospital and our extensive industry links. Previously, students have heard from professionals working for National Institute for Health Excellence, Chair of a clinical ethics committee in a major hospital, negligence lawyer, leading researcher in ethics of health data management, and organiser of public consultations for Human Tissue Authority to name just a few examples.

Teaching is delivered through a variety of methods including group lectures, tutor-led seminars, postgraduate masterclasses and workshops, and case or scenario based learning sessions. For example, in the Future of Medicine Ethics module, you will explore the impact of genetics on the society and examine various ethical approaches to regulation of future applications, and examine ethics-based policy recommendations. You will also participate in self-directed study and wider reading, as well as individual and group practical sessions.

Personal and professional development is fostered through academic study, self-directed learning activities and the implementation of a research project under supervision. Research projects reflect the flexibility offered throughout the programme with the potential to study an exciting range of subject matter as part of a humanities, ethics and law.

The course is designed to encourage you to become more self-directed in your studies and, in doing so, gain insight into your own learning styles, preparing you to take responsibility for your professional development and future learning. You will develop transferrable skills in critical thinking, formal and academic writing, communication skills, time management, written source analysis, planning, and data review and/or collection.

Careers

Graduating with a postgraduate degree in Medical Ethics, Law and Humanities from St George’s opens up a variety of opportunities – in academic, healthcare and science-related and ethics, law and humanities. The breadth of practical experience and insight will help prepare you to make impactful change in the way healthcare, science is practices, regulated and understood by the public.

Careers in medical ethics, law and humanities are often divided into complementing your professional practice (in healthcare, science, law, policy, management, etc), academic opportunities and health and science related humanities.

Clinicians with postgraduate medical law and ethics training often are to be found leading ethics education in many medical schools across the country. Clinicians completing an MA might also utilise this qualification to gain training places in their chosen fields. International clinicians may benefit too. Some of these clinicians may also use the MA as a steppingstone to an MD/PhD and a growing number of trainee doctors in the UK complete an MA or PhD before taking up a consultancy post. Scientists and science graduates might use humanities and science approaches to complement their projects with public engagement, science communication and ELSI (ethical, legal and social implications) projects, as well as contribute to education.

Non-clinicians/scientists represent a broader group and their career and learning opportunities may vary. Students who complete the course might use their qualification to assist with applications for a PhD. Others might wish to work for policy forums, third sector employers (e.g. Wellcome Trust, Mind UK) or any number of other roles such as science journalism or public engagement roles in research and educational institutions.

Example career routes:

  • Academic institutions
  • Civil service
  • Hospitals
  • Local or national government
  • National health services
  • National ministries of health
  • NGOs
  • Professional bodies
  • Third sector organisations
  • Bioethics think-tanks
  • Public engagement and involvement
  • Science and ethics writing

Facilities

St George’s is the only UK university based on a hospital site, St George’s Hospital, which is where much of the Channel 4 television series 24 hours in A&E was filmed. We offer a unique opportunity to study and work alongside the full range of clinical professionals and their patients. Based in the thriving multi-cultural hub of Tooting in South West London, our location has the added advantage of being just a short tube ride from Central London and all the city lifestyle has to offer.

We also have a range of academic facilities to support your learning, listed below.

Library and learning technology

Our modern health sciences library offers a wide range of books, e-books, academic journals and other resources to support you. You will also have access to online resources, such as the Canvas virtual learning environment

and our Hunter discovery service to help you find the information you need. The library is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and comprises silent, quiet and group learning areas, as well as four group discussion rooms.

IT facilities

We have five computer suites housing 260 workstations. Three of these suites are accessible 24 hours a day. It’s easy to find a free space with our handy real-time computer locator. We also have 75 self-service laptops available. Free Wi-Fi covers the whole campus, including all accommodation. You can use these resources to access your course materials, discussion boards and feedback through Canvas.

Archive collections

The archive collections cover St George’s history from its establishment in 1733 to the present day. As well as documenting the aims, objectives and achievements of the university, they also offer a unique glimpse into the people and events which have shaped the university’s history. The collections include administrative papers, student and staff records, nursing records, records of clubs and societies, photographs, artworks, rare books from the old Medical School Library at Hyde Park Corner, artefacts and other important materials relating to the history of St George’s.

‘Opening Up the Body’ - post-mortem case book archive

The Post Mortem Examinations and Case Books were created jointly by St George’s Hospital and the Medical School. The post mortem records contain manuscript case notes, with medical notes both pre and post mortem. These include details on patients’ admission to the hospital, treatments and medication administered to patients and the medical history of patients; the medical histories were copied into the volumes from hospital registers, which are no longer extant. The post mortem cases include detailed pathological findings made during the detailed examination of the body after death. From the 1880s onwards the case books contain original anatomical drawings and photographs.

Museum of Human Diseases

Our on-site Museum of Human Diseases houses a collection of over 2,000 pathological specimens, including a number of original specimens donated by Sir Benjamin Collins Brodie in 1843. This space is used for small group tutorials by students across all of our courses as an educational tool to help them understand more about human diseases. One of the museum’s most famous curators during these early years was Henry Gray. The specimens were usually obtained from cases encountered at St George’s at post-mortem or during surgery and they afford a unique look at the variety of complaints suffered by Londoners during the late 19th century.

Student support

Whether you are an existing healthcare professional, returning to education after a break or joining us after graduating from an undergraduate degree, we want to ensure your experience is positive from the outset. At St George’s, you’ll be welcomed by a multicultural student and staff body of different ages, ethnicities, nationalities and backgrounds, all with one thing in common – an interest in healthcare, science and medicine.

Students frequently tell us they greatly appreciate the diversity of our student and staff body, as well as the patients who access healthcare services in the borough of Tooting. St George’s attracts a substantial number – over two-thirds – of ‘mature’ students, aged 21 or over when they start; many have family and caring responsibilities.

We offer a full range of academic support and student services across all institutes, departments and faculties, some of which are listed below. We take pride in offering a transformative educational experience underpinned by cooperation and collaboration between staff and students.

If you require reasonable adjustments or disability services you can find information on our disability information for students pages. For any further information please contact the disability adviser.

Personal academic tutor

On arrival, you will be allocated a personal tutor – someone with whom you can have regular contact, who you ask questions and discuss problems with, both academic and personal. The main purpose of a personal tutor is to monitor your progress, pick up and help you resolve any problems, whether academic or welfare related. Even if they don’t have the answer they will point you in the right direction towards the best people to deal with specific problems.

Study+

Our support for academic skills will help you develop and improve on academic skills you need to succeed. Sessions and tutorials on literature searches, keyword searches and utilising databases will help you make the most of our library collection and literature reviews. You can use training materials in academic planning, academic reading and writing to develop key transferable skills. You will also offer 1:1 meetings for a tailored approach to your academic support needs.

Induction programme

The main goal of induction is to make sure that you are set up for your studies and start to feel part of the University and our community. As well as course-specific activities, we run an online ‘Get Started’ module which provides lots of information about social and enrichment activities, student safety, wellbeing and learning support, including study skills, a library induction and guidance about our careers and employability services. Additional information is provided for international students.

Student Life Centre

Our Student Centre team can help you with every aspect of student life: finances, accommodation, exams and assessment, academic procedures, admissions, international queries, disability and wellbeing, even finding your way around – whatever it takes to make you feel at home. Each course has a designated contact within the student centre to link to and your personal tutor can signpost you to relevant support, including a confidential counselling service.

Careers service

Our careers service works to support current students and recent graduates to find and maintain the career of their dreams. We work with careers tutors from each course area to ensure that careers activities specific to your programmes and future profession come to you.

International student support

Our International Students Support service is part of the Student Life Centre and provides guidance and information on visas, settlement schemes, enrolment and more. If you are an international student, please do get in touch with them as soon as you accept your offer to study the course via student.immigration@sgul.ac.uk

How to apply

Before beginning your application please check the entry criteria of the course you wish to study to ensure you meet the required standards.

Applications must be submitted through our online application system, which you can access below.

Access our online application system

1. Select the relevant application link and create an account:

2. Once you have created your account, you will then be able to complete an application form and upload any relevant documents. You can save a partly completed form and return to it later. Please make sure you complete all sections. Please also make sure that the information you provide is accurate, including the options you select in menus.

3. Add pgadmissions@sgul.ac.uk to your address book to ensure you do not miss any important emails from us.

4. When you have checked that your application is complete and accurate, click ‘submit’

You can track your application through your online account.

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Guidance for completing your references

When completing your application, you will be asked to provide contact details of two referees. Please ensure these details are accurate. As soon as you have submitted your application, your referees will be contacted by the university asking them to upload a reference to your online application.

One must be a recent academic reference. The other should be either a second academic reference or a professional/employer reference. They should cover your suitability for the course and your academic ability.

Your referees should know you well enough, in an official capacity, to write about you and your suitability for higher education. We do not accept references from family, friends, partners, ex-partners or yourself.

We will send reminder emails to your referees but it is your responsibility to ensure that contact details are correct and referees are available to submit a reference. References should be uploaded within two weeks of making your application.

Fees and funding

In this tab you will find the financial information for this course of study, including details of financial support.

Tuition fees

2024 UK (home)

  • Full-time MA: £13,150
  • Part-time MA (2 years): £6,850 per annum
  • Full-time PgDip: £8,950
  • Part-time PgCert (1 year): £4,750

2024 International (including EU)

  • Full-time MA: £25,200
  • Part-time MA (2 years): £13,400 per annum
  • Full-time PgDip: £16,800
  • Part-time PgCert (1 year): £8,950

We do not expect students to incur any extra costs over and above those that we have advertised on the course page. To get the most from your studies, you will need your personal computer or laptop and an internet connection in your home. Find out more about technology requirements.

Funding your study

We have a range of funding opportunities available for students. You may be eligible for the following.

Apply now

Duration

12 months full-time; 24 months part-time

Application Deadline

30 June

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