EGA Institute for Women's Health


Legal and Ethical Aspects of Women's Health



Brief summary 

This module introduces students to legal, ethical and moral issues affecting women’s health and well-being. It provides an opportunity for students to develop a critical appreciation of a range of ethico-legal dilemmas which arise in relation to contemporary women’s healthcare particularly in relation to issues of choice, consent and confidentiality. What does consent & choice really mean for women and their health?   When and how should life be created?  Whose life is it - what are the rights of the fetus and the mother?  How can medical negligence affect women's health?  What happens when things go wrong and birth is mis-managed or breast screening fails? Implicit throughout is consideration of the influence of  contemporary socio-cultural influences.

UCL Credits


Module Organisers 

  • Prof Joyce Harper
  • Dr Jackie Nicholls


  • Control of fertility: contraception, choices, autonomy & consent; children, sterilization, mental incapacity; tort liability & contraception; feminist & religious perspectives; eugenics; service provision.
  • Assisted reproduction: ethical & legal issues in relation to available techniques. Regulation by HFEA; consent, access to treatment. Regulating use of gametes and embryos. Legal parentage. Regulation of PGD.
  • Surrogacy: legal & ethical aspects.
  • Pregnancy & childbirth: regulating pregnant women – ethical and legal dilemmas; civil & criminal liability in reproductive health: pre-natal injury: actions by child; actions by parent; negligence in obstetrics.
  • Abortion: Statutory provisions; women’s rights and choice; legal & moral status of the fetus; disability: sex selection; service provision and regulation: conscientious objection.
  • Ethico-legal challenges in a range of student-selected areas of women’s health & social care e,g. genetic testing & women’s cancers, FGM, domestic violence and abuse, sexual violence.

Teaching and learning methods

The module will be delivered on a strongly interactive basis with emphasis on case-based problem-solving. combining lectures, tutorials, e-learning and independent study. 


Essay (3,000 words)

Selected reading list

Brazier M & Cave E. (2016) Medicine, patients & the law (Contemporary Issues in Bioethics). MUP.

ISBN 978-1784991364

Herring J. (2016) Medical Law & Ethics. OUP.

ISBN 978-0198747659

Laurie G, Harmon S and Porter G. (2016) Mason & McCall Smith’s Law & Medical Ethics. CUP.

ISBN 978-1-107-01522-7

Miola N and Hoppe J. (2014) Medical Law & Ethics. OUP. ISBN 978-0198747659