• Class Number 8572
  • Term Code 2970
  • Class Info
  • Unit Value 6 units
  • Mode of Delivery In Person
    • Ruth Townsend
    • Ruth Townsend
  • Class Dates
  • Class Start Date 11/11/2019
  • Class End Date 26/12/2019
  • Census Date 22/11/2019
  • Last Date to Enrol 11/11/2019
SELT Survey Results

In this course, you will analyse the advanced applications of bioethical, common law, statutory and international law and trade obligations upon health care systems, patients, health care providers, administrators and policy makers in both Australian and global context. The course utilises illustrative references to medical humanities including literature and philosophy

In this course you will develop your knowledge and understanding of major contemporary areas of controversy in Australian and global bioethics and health law, such as:

1. Constitutional basis of Australian health law (including the quarantine power and the civil conscription prohibition for medical services)

2. Ethical, legal and human rights basis of the doctor-patient relationship

3. Negligence in diagnosis and treatment including non-disclosure of material risk (through analysis of recent high court decisions)

4. Confidentiality and access to medical records

5. Misconduct and complaint proceedings, 

6. Withdrawal, withholding and refusal of medical treatment, Euthanasia, , 

7. Abortion, wrongful birth and wrongful life actions and new reproductive technologies (surrogacy, artificial womb), gene therapy, genetic screening, human reproductive cloning

8. Health care whistleblowing

9.Pubic v Private policy debate in health care- insurance, Medicare , Pharmaceutical benefits Scheme, US-style managed care 

10. World Health Organisation International Health Regulations (for pandemics)

11. Regulation of human medical research

12. Impact of international trade agreements on access to health services and medicines in Australia (focus on AUSFTA and TPPA)

13 Issues concerning vulnerable populations- Third World, Aboriginal, Transgender and Intersex issues

14. Regulation of Planetary Medicine including Global Artificial Photosynthesis


Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion, students will have the knowledge and skills to:

  1. Explain, distinguish and evaluate their conceptual understanding of the legal and practical issues that are peculiar to Australian health law, in particular ACT health law and international health law;
  2. Identify, critically analyse and apply legal principles of bioethics and health law and legislation to complex legal issues and problems arising in the practice of healthcare by health care providers;
  3. Identify, critically examine and analyse complex health and bioethics issues to identify and apply principles and provide solutions to manage complex matters arising in healthcare for patients, health policy and society; and
  4. Independently plan and execute a research project to demonstrate complex legal research principles and methodologies in applying critical analysis and application of legal principles and practice in complex health and bioethics matters.

Research-Led Teaching

Some of the teaching of this subject is informed by research undertaken by the academics who have developed and delivered this course. This course also expects that students will undertake their own research in discrete areas and share their work with other students.

Required Resources

A list of readings will be available on the course Wattle site.

Kerridge, Lowe, Stewart (2013) Ethics and Health Law for Health Professions. Federation Press.

Staff Feedback

Students will be given feedback in the following forms in this course:

  • written comments
  • verbal comments
  • feedback to whole class, groups, individuals, focus group etc

Student Feedback

ANU is committed to the demonstration of educational excellence and regularly seeks feedback from students. Students are encouraged to offer feedback directly to their Course Convener or through their College and Course representatives (if applicable). The feedback given in these surveys is anonymous and provides the Colleges, University Education Committee and Academic Board with opportunities to recognise excellent teaching, and opportunities for improvement. The Surveys and Evaluation website provides more information on student surveys at ANU and reports on the feedback provided on ANU courses.

Other Information

Task submission times refer to Canberra time (AEST/AEDT).

Extensions late submission and penalties: https://law.anu.edu.au/current-students/policies-procedures/extensions-late-submission-and-penalties

Deferred examination: http://www.anu.edu.au/students/program-administration/assessments-exams/deferred-examinations

Special consideration: http://www.anu.edu.au/students/program-administration/assessments-exams/special-assessment-consideration

Penalties for excess word length: https://law.anu.edu.au/current-students/policies-procedures/word-length-and-excess-word-penalties

Further Information about the course: is available from the course WATTLE page. Students are required to access the WATTLE site regularly throughout the course for any announcements relating to the course.

Class Schedule

Week/Session Summary of Activities Assessment
1 Intro to ethics; Intro to health law in Australia; Human rights and health; Health practitioner regulation; Trade and health; Children and health law. 1. Five question multiple choice quiz 2. Application and reflection on ethical dilemma and resolution (Part 1)
2 Privacy and confidentiality; Abortion; Medical negligence and consent; Duty to rescue? 1. Five question multiple choice quiz 2. Application and reflection on ethical dilemma and resolution (Part 2)
3 End-of-life; Organ donation; Genetics; Assisted reproductive technology; Healthcare rationing and privatization. 1. Five question multiple choice quiz
4 Public health law, the environment, vaccinations, pharmaceuticals, mental health law. 1. Five question multiple choice quiz

Assessment Summary

Assessment task Value Due Date Return of assessment Learning Outcomes
Reflective Ethical Dilemma Task – Online Discussion 20 % 21/11/2019 12/12/2019 1,2,3,4
Pre-reading multiple choice questions (MCQs) 20 % 14/11/2019 14/11/2019 1,2,3,4
Research Paper- draft journal article 60 % 06/01/2020 27/01/2020 1,2,3,4

* If the Due Date and Return of Assessment date are blank, see the Assessment Tab for specific Assessment Task details


ANU has educational policies, procedures and guidelines, which are designed to ensure that staff and students are aware of the University’s academic standards, and implement them. Students are expected to have read the Academic Misconduct Rule before the commencement of their course. Other key policies and guidelines include:

Assessment Requirements

The ANU is using Turnitin to enhance student citation and referencing techniques, and to assess assignment submissions as a component of the University's approach to managing Academic Integrity. For additional information regarding Turnitin please visit the ANU Online website. In rare cases where online submission using Turnitin software is not technically possible; or where not using Turnitin software has been justified by the Course Convener and approved by the Associate Dean (Education) on the basis of the teaching model being employed; students shall submit assessment online via ‘Wattle’ outside of Turnitin, or failing that in hard copy, or through a combination of submission methods as approved by the Associate Dean (Education). The submission method is detailed below.

Moderation of Assessment

Marks that are allocated during Semester are to be considered provisional until formalised by the College examiners meeting at the end of each Semester. If appropriate, some moderation of marks might be applied prior to final results being released.


For all courses taught face-to-face in intensive mode, the ANU College of Law considers participation in the classes offered to be an important part of the educational experience of the graduate program and students are required to attend ALL classes (and all of each class).

In exceptional circumstances, a student may be granted permission by the Course Convenor, in consultation with the Stream Convenor or Director, LLM Program, to miss some classes, provided:

a.      it does not exceed a maximum of 25% of the classes;

b.      permission is requested in advance; and

c.       the request is supported, where appropriate, by adequate documentation.

Failure to comply with this policy may result in a student receiving the grade of NCN (non-complete fail). The normal pressures of work or planned personal trips do not constitute exceptional circumstances to justify an exemption from full compliance of this policy.

Assessment Task 1

Value: 20 %
Due Date: 21/11/2019
Return of Assessment: 12/12/2019
Learning Outcomes: 1,2,3,4

Reflective Ethical Dilemma Task – Online Discussion

Details of task: Students are to choose an ethical dilemma that they have encountered in their work or have a dilemma given to them by the lecturer. They are to answer the dilemma at the beginning of the first day and keep that answer to be used the following day. On day 2, students are to answer the dilemma again but this time using an ethical framework discussed in class the day before. Students are to post their answer to the dilemma with and without the use of the framework on the discussion board and a reflection on the process. The reflection should include comments about how useful the framework was to help resolve the dilemma; whether the student would use a similar framework to resolve other ethical dilemmas professionally or personally; or not.  

Nature of task: Compulsory. Students who fail to submit this task will receive a mark of 0 for the task.

Value: 20%

Assessment criteria: The reflective ethical dilemma task will be evaluated using a rubric, which will be available on the Wattle site. The criteria will include:

  • Ability to communicate knowledge and understanding of concepts;
  • Critical analysis and reflection of task;
  • Quality and clarity of argument.

Word Limit: 1200 words.

Assessment Task 2

Value: 20 %
Due Date: 14/11/2019
Return of Assessment: 14/11/2019
Learning Outcomes: 1,2,3,4

Pre-reading multiple choice questions (MCQs)

Details of task: daily multiple choice questions ( MCQs) (5 per day)

Students are required to complete 5 MCQs via the Wattle course site for LAWS8237 focused on the in-class discussions following each daily session. This assessment item is due the day after each day of the course. The MCQs will be released at 7 pm on each night of the course, and must be answered by 8.55 am the following morning. Further instructions will be available on the Wattle site.

Nature of task: Compulsory. No late submission of this assessment task is permitted. Failure to attempt the MCQs for a particular day or days will result in a mark of 0 for the MCQs set for that particular day or days. If you have medical evidence which would ordinarily entitle you to an extension under ANU policies you will not be permitted to do the 5 MCQs for that particular day. Instead your mark will be pro-rated. For example, if you miss one day of the MCQs in circumstances where you would have been entitled to an extension under ANU policy, your MCQs for the remaining days will be marked out of 15 marks (the maximum available) and that mark will be converted to a mark out of 20.

Value: 20%

Assessment criteria: Not applicable.

Assessment Task 3

Value: 60 %
Due Date: 06/01/2020
Return of Assessment: 27/01/2020
Learning Outcomes: 1,2,3,4

Research Paper- draft journal article

Details of task: Students may choose a Bioethics and Health Law research topic that particularly interests them and write a research paper. The gold standard aimed for is that the piece should be capable of becoming a draft article. Students could consider, for example, writing a critical analysis article of a recent Australian health law case or piece of legislation using prior such articles in the Medical Law Reporter section of the Journal of Law and Medicine as a template. This assessment task will assist students to satisfactorily complete ELOs 1-5 with a particular focus on detailed knowledge of new developments in an area of bioethics and health law and capacity to present a new approach to that in a format suitable for publication in the major health law journal in Australia.

Nature of task: Compulsory. Failure to submit this task will result in a mark of 0 for the task.

Due: Monday 6 January 2020 at 5pm. Late submission with an extension is permitted, otherwise penalties will apply.

Length: 4000 words

Referencing Requirements: Students should reference their draft research articles in the style of the Australian Journal of Law and Medicine (available as an e-journal through the ANU Library). If a student wishes to format the draft article in the style of a different international health law journal permission should be sought from the lecturer.

Value: 60%

Assessment criteria:

a)      Understanding of the Issues

  • addresses the question and covers the salient, relevant and important points;
  • evidence of close consideration of the question and the research materials drawn on;
  • issues raised by the topic are clearly and concisely identified;
  • material chosen relates clearly to the topic and is analysed not just summarised or quoted extensively;

b)        Communication and Development of Argument

  • shows a clear theme or argument;
  • argument(s) logical and well-organised;
  • ideas/paragraphs linked coherently; 

c)        Argument/Analysis

  • originality of ideas and critical analysis of the material;
  • complexity and insight in dealing with theory/ideas;
  • suggestions for change where appropriate;
  •  interdisciplinary perspective where appropriate;
  • addressing opposing arguments;
  • well-reasoned conclusions;

d)        Research

  • research covering primary and secondary materials;
  • good organisation of sources and ability to synthesise all the research materials used;
  • use of theoretical material where appropriate;
  • range of research sources;
  • integration of material from research resources into the essay. 

e)        Presentation, style and referencing

  • good use of structure, section headings and paragraphs;
  • clarity and conciseness of expression, interesting and engaging of reader;
  • use of appropriate terminology and correct grammar, syntax and spelling;
  • full and accurate footnotes together with a bibliography;
  • style according to Australian Guide to Legal Citation where appropriate;
  • adherence to word limit.

Academic Integrity

Academic integrity is a core part of our culture as a community of scholars. At its heart, academic integrity is about behaving ethically. This means that all members of the community commit to honest and responsible scholarly practice and to upholding these values with respect and fairness. The Australian National University commits to embedding the values of academic integrity in our teaching and learning. We ensure that all members of our community understand how to engage in academic work in ways that are consistent with, and actively support academic integrity. The ANU expects staff and students to uphold high standards of academic integrity and act ethically and honestly, to ensure the quality and value of the qualification that you will graduate with. The University has policies and procedures in place to promote academic integrity and manage academic misconduct. Visit the following Academic honesty & plagiarism website for more information about academic integrity and what the ANU considers academic misconduct. The ANU offers a number of services to assist students with their assignments, examinations, and other learning activities. The Academic Skills and Learning Centre offers a number of workshops and seminars that you may find useful for your studies.

Online Submission

You will be required to electronically sign a declaration as part of the submission of your assignment. Please keep a copy of the assignment for your records. Unless an exemption has been approved by the Associate Dean (Education) submission must be through Turnitin.

Hardcopy Submission

For some forms of assessment (hand written assignments, art works, laboratory notes, etc.) hard copy submission is appropriate when approved by the Associate Dean (Education). Hard copy submissions must utilise the Assignment Cover Sheet. Please keep a copy of tasks completed for your records.

Late Submission

Individual assessment tasks may or may not allow for late submission. Policy regarding late submission is detailed below:

  • Late submission not permitted. If submission of assessment tasks without an extension after the due date is not permitted, a mark of 0 will be awarded.
  • Late submission permitted. Late submission of assessment tasks without an extension are penalised at the rate of 5% of the possible marks available per working day or part thereof. Late submission of assessment tasks is not accepted after 10 working days after the due date, or on or after the date specified in the course outline for the return of the assessment item. Late submission is not accepted for take-home examinations.

Referencing Requirements

Accepted academic practice for referencing sources that you use in presentations can be found via the links on the Wattle site, under the file named “ANU and College Policies, Program Information, Student Support Services and Assessment”. Alternatively, you can seek help through the Students Learning Development website.

Extensions and Penalties

Extensions and late submission of assessment pieces are covered by the Student Assessment (Coursework) Policy and Procedure. The Course Convener may grant extensions for assessment pieces that are not examinations or take-home examinations. If you need an extension, you must request an extension in writing on or before the due date. If you have documented and appropriate medical evidence that demonstrates you were not able to request an extension on or before the due date, you may be able to request it after the due date.

Privacy Notice

The ANU has made a number of third party, online, databases available for students to use. Use of each online database is conditional on student end users first agreeing to the database licensor’s terms of service and/or privacy policy. Students should read these carefully. In some cases student end users will be required to register an account with the database licensor and submit personal information, including their: first name; last name; ANU email address; and other information.
In cases where student end users are asked to submit ‘content’ to a database, such as an assignment or short answers, the database licensor may only use the student’s ‘content’ in accordance with the terms of service – including any (copyright) licence the student grants to the database licensor. Any personal information or content a student submits may be stored by the licensor, potentially offshore, and will be used to process the database service in accordance with the licensors terms of service and/or privacy policy.
If any student chooses not to agree to the database licensor’s terms of service or privacy policy, the student will not be able to access and use the database. In these circumstances students should contact their lecturer to enquire about alternative arrangements that are available.

Distribution of grades policy

Academic Quality Assurance Committee monitors the performance of students, including attrition, further study and employment rates and grade distribution, and College reports on quality assurance processes for assessment activities, including alignment with national and international disciplinary and interdisciplinary standards, as well as qualification type learning outcomes.

Since first semester 1994, ANU uses a grading scale for all courses. This grading scale is used by all academic areas of the University.

Support for students

The University offers students support through several different services. You may contact the services listed below directly or seek advice from your Course Convener, Student Administrators, or your College and Course representatives (if applicable).

Ruth Townsend
02 63 384 350

Research Interests

Ruth has practiced as both a paramedic and a solicitor having worked earlier this year as a University Ombuds and Senior Legal Officer. Ruth has been a health law academic for over 12 years having worked with Professor Tom Faunce at ANU conjointly in the ANU College of Law and the ANU School of Medicine for four years before moving to become a senior lecturer in health law, ethics and professionalism at regional university. Ruth is the co-editor and author of the text, ‘Applied Paramedic Law and Ethics’ as well as having published over 50 articles, chapters, industry and op-ed pieces in the areas of law, ethics, medicine, nursing, paramedicine, mental health, negligence, privacy, end-of-life care, health practitioner regulation, trade and health, pharmaceutical regulation. Ruth has a PhD in law from the ANU and has supervised a number of honours students on a range of different topics. Ruth was previously the legal member of the ANU Human Research Ethics Committee and the Australian Defence Force Human Research Ethics Committee as well as the ethics member of the ACT Clinical Ethics Committee.

Ruth Townsend

By Appointment
Ruth Townsend
+61 2 6125 3483

Research Interests

Ruth Townsend

By Appointment

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