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Unit information: Health Law and the Body in 2022/23

Please note: It is possible that the information shown for future academic years may change due to developments in the relevant academic field. Optional unit availability varies depending on both staffing, student choice and timetabling constraints.

Unit name Health Law and the Body
Unit code LAWDM0133
Credit points 30
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 4 (weeks 1-24)
Unit director Professor. Sheelagh McGuinness
Open unit status Not open




School/department University of Bristol Law School
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences and Law


This unit aims to provide a firm knowledge and understanding of the theoretical literature on bodies and embodiment. Students will be equipped to critically assess the legal frameworks that regulate and contain bodies and bodily material. The unit approaches these questions through a range of practical, legal, and critical pathways, explaining the relevant legal frameworks, and examining specific legal constructions of different bodily forms. By providing a strong grounding in theoretical literature the unit will enable students to assess critically the regulation of bodies and bodily material. Students will be encouraged to translate their understanding of the theoretical material and apply this to a series of case studies in how bodies and shaped and created in law. A guest lecture will be delivered in order to ensure students also gain an insight into the realities of policy-making in this area.

Intended learning outcomes

The Unit aims to develop an understanding of Health Law and the Body.

On completion of the Unit, students should be able to:

  1. Analyse critically theoretical literature on embodiment and legal personhood.
  2. Have a critical understanding of different legal frameworks and how they construct part accounts of human bodies and bodily material.
  3. Undertake independent research and critical analysis in relation to questions raised on the Unit, particularly exploring further the range of case studies that will be examined on the unit.
  4. Apply critically such knowledge and understanding within a discursive, critical essay
  5. Apply critically such knowledge and understanding within a discursive, critical essay through a research-led law reform project.
  6. State and analyse relevant law and other modes of regulation accurately, specifically students should be able to evidence a critical understanding of specialist regulators in this area.
  7. Apply legal and political principles to practical questions concerning health law and the body.

Teaching details

Teaching will be delivered through a variety of asynchronous and synchronous activities

Assessment Details

1x summative assessment: 1 x Law Reform Project (100%) with a specified word count.

The assessment will assess all of the intended learning outcomes for this unit.

As it is an innovative assessment method, it may be useful to see some further detail on the law reform project:

  • this form of assessment is appropriate in particular in terms of the skills-development that are foundational to the overall programme of study: it requires students to identify a problematic area of health as a social concern, present a legal/regulatory response to that problem, and advance a defence for the proposed reform
  • students are given clear guidance on approach to research and presentation of the projects
  • that guidance explains that the project should incorporate three substantive sections (plus an intro and conclusion): first, with particular reference to primary sources and critically reasoned/evidenced argument, a case is made for why an area of health law is problematic; second, a reform proposal is described and explained; third, a justification section explains how and why the reform proposal will improve health law
  • this is an assessment model that one of the programme tutors (Coggon) has used very successfully elsewhere (and which was found to be very popular amongst students)
  • the relative weight compared to the essay represents the reality that a greater word space is a benefit on this sort of project
  • the project is formulated through library-based research, so there will be no question of students engaging in original empirical work for the project (and thus attendant potential problems associated with need for ethical clearance)

The formative assessment will be one 1500-word critical, discursive essay. There will be an opportunity for direct feedback on a separate law reform exercise through student presentations.

Additional opportunities for non-assessed formative work and feedback will be provided through mixed teaching methods and student-led tasks in seminars.


If this unit has a Resource List, you will normally find a link to it in the Blackboard area for the unit. Sometimes there will be a separate link for each weekly topic.

If you are unable to access a list through Blackboard, you can also find it via the Resource Lists homepage. Search for the list by the unit name or code (e.g. LAWDM0133).