UCL Faculty of Laws

Prof Sir Jonathan Montgomery

Prof Sir Jonathan Montgomery

Professor of Healthcare Law

Faculty of Laws


Joined UCL
1st Nov 2013

Research summary

My most significant research contributions lie in the field that I have described as Health Care Law, where I am widely recognised as both having redefined the subject area and made a significant contribution to its theoretical understanding. My work is discussed as one of the main theoretical frameworks for the subject area in many monographs and textbooks; e.g. Hervey & McHale Health Law and the EU (2004); O'Donovan in the foreword and the editors Sheldon & Thomson, Feminist Perspectives on Health Care Law (1998); Veitch The Jurisdiction of Medical Law (2007), Coggon What Makes Health Public? (2012). Reviewers of the first edition of my textbook Health Care Law described my work as: ‘some of the most important and interesting legal analysis of medical law as a discipline' (Journal of Medical Ethics), and suggested that I had ‘...created in the last 10 years vantage points from which to get a better sense of the legal environment, framing perspectives through existing sociological insights and informed with empirical findings' (Lancet).

The three principal strands of my approach are that (a) the subject area is better understood as ‘Health Care Law’ than ‘Medical Law’, (b) the widespread assumption that ‘medical law’ is concerned with subjecting doctors to legal regulation in order to promote ethical goals, misrepresents the practice of law-makers who have mostly sought to integrate professional norms into legal practice and reinforce them rather than challenge them, and (c) that more attention needs to be paid to the need to legitimate legal interventions in health care ethics.

More recently, I have developed a programme of work around 'Bioethics Governance', drawing attention to the practices that have emerged to address bioethical issues and bridging the academic and policy disciplines that have interests in the field. The approach is described in my piece 'Bioethics as a Governance Practice' (2016) (https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10728-015-0310-2#/page-1) and developed in a number of pieces including 'Bioethics after Brexit' (http://iris.ucl.ac.uk/iris/publication/1591064/1). My J Kenyon Mason Annual Lecture 2017, 'New Bearings in Health Research Ethics: Towards a Social Contract Paradigm', set out a programme of issues that we need to take forward if we are to keep pace with the ethics of health and social care research (https://youtu.be/IkaKkb3Yc3E). My paper to the Council of Europe Conference celebrating the 20th Anniversary of the Oviedo Convention concerned the origins and future of restructions on modification of the human germline (http://iris.ucl.ac.uk/iris/publication/1591062/1).

Teaching summary

Health Care Law (LLB) considers the role of law in grappling with contemporary problems arising in the context of health services in England. It exploits my connections with the NHS to identify live issues and how they are being approached. Summative assessment is by a law reform project and examination. For the former, students identify an area of health care law of their choice that could be improved, demonstrate its current problems, explain how the reform would be achieved, and why this reform should be introduced. The examination asks students to consider thematic issues; such as whether the law has proved itself sufficiently flexible to be a force for good in the regulation of health care, the role of judges in resolving morally charged disputes in a pluralist society, the protection of the human rights of patients, and virtues and vices of clinical freedom.

Law and Governance of Global Health (LLM) considers the role of domestic and international laws in promoting health, including how health concerns are balanced against other values such as personal liberty, commerce, and free speech. It examines the scope and nature of the 'right to health' and how it has been put into effect in international conventions and specific legal systems. It considers issues around access to care; including justiciable rights to care, and the tension between intellectual property rights and affordable medicines. It explores aspects of tobacco control; including the Framework Convention, country specific restrictions, and disputes around free trade and the packaging of products. The course provides scope for incorporating cases studies chosen to match the interests of students, such as infectious disease control, legal regulation of rationing decisions, the health rights of women and children. It is examined by a ‘take home’ essay.

Bioethics Governance (LLM) draws on my experience of 'public ethics' bodies, including as chair of the Nuffield Council of Bioethics, the Health Research Authority and the Human Genetics Commission. The course explores the governance of bioethical issues in liberal democracies through a combination of conceptual analysis and case studies (drawn principally from the UK, with selected international comparisons). It considers 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), raising questions about authority and the ‘enforcement of morality’. Assessment is by a research based project that draws on a number of different cases studies to answer an essay question critically evaluating the most appropriate governance approaches to a problem in bioethics identified by the student, subject to approval by the convenor.


University of Cambridge
Other higher degree, Master of Laws | 1984
University of Cambridge
First Degree, Bachelor of Arts | 1983


In addition to my academic work, I have undertaken a number of public service roles. These currently include Chair of Oxford University Hospitals NHSFT and non-executive director of Health Data research UK.  In 2019 I was awarded a knighthood for services to Bioethics and Healthcare Law.

My previous national chair roles include the Advisory Committee on Clinical Excellence Awards (2005-14) and the Human Genetics Commission (2009-12), Chair of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics (the nearest the UK has to a national bioethics committee) 2012-2017, and Chair of the Health Research Authority 2012-1019 (which protects and promotes the interests of participants, patients and the public in health research and aims to streamline its regulation). I served on local NHS boards in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight for over twenty years up to March 2013, where my roles included chairing the cluster of primary care trusts that commissioned services for the residents of Southampton, Hampshire, the Isle of Wight, and Portsmouth. I had previously chaired a strategic health authority and two provider trusts.

I chaired the UK Clinical Research Collaboration Working Party on a Strategy for Brain Tissue Banking, and sat on the Scientific Steering Committee of Brain Banks UK. I was a member of the Committee on the Ethical Aspects of Pandemic Influenza. I sat on the Organ Donation Taskforce for its work on presumed consent in 2008 and was been a member of the Medical Ethics Committee of the British Medical Association from 2003 to 2008. I was a member of the panel of advisers to the Morecambe Bay Investigation, which reported in 2015.

I have been involved in the preparation of ethical guidance in a number of areas of health practice, including

Confidentiality (GMC, 2017)

Report on the Genetic Testing of Children 2010 (British Society for Human Genetics).

Public Health Ethics (Nuffield Council on Bioethics, 2007).

Withholding or Withdrawing Life Saving Treatment in Children: A Framework for Practice (Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, 1997).

Genetic Testing of Children: Report of a Working Party of the Clinical Genetics Society (Clinical Genetics Society, 1994).

Guidelines for the Ethical Conduct of Research Involving Children (British Paediatric Association, 1992).