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Master in Research Medical Ethics

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  • Objectives
    This course aims to provide you with advanced critical, analytical and argumentative skills, to deliver personal fulfilment, professional development and career enhancement, and to encourage reflective practice. It will provide you with knowledge of a range of research methods in and approaches to medical ethics, which can be applied fruitfully to moral problems and dilemmas that you encounter in your own professional practice. You will also learn how to produce independent policy- and practice-relevant medical ethics research.
  • Entry requirements
    In general, it is expected that most applicants will have: • A good Masters degree in ethics or a closely-related subject • Five years practical experience in the healthcare field • Non-standard alternatives to the first criterion could include a combination of a high level of professional seniority or experience with a Bachelor’s degree in a relevant subject at I or high IIi level, or an outstanding postgraduate diploma result. Please note that the course pre-assumes quite a lot of knowledge about applied ethics and ethical theory. Potential applicants with an M level qualification in another subject and no formal background in ethics should consider taking one of our PgDip or MA courses first.
  • Academic Title
    MRes Medical Ethics
  • Course description
    Full-Time study


    This course is designed for healthcare professionals who already have a Masters Level qualification in Medical Ethics or a related subject, or who have substantial experience at a senior level. There are two different qualifications available, the Professional Doctorate in Medical Ethics (DMedEth), which is taken part-time, and the Master of Research in Medical Ethics (MRes), which may be taken part-time or full-time. The full-time MRes would be of interest to philosophy graduates who plan to continue their study to PhD level.

    The professional doctorate is equivalent in status to the traditional PhD, and professional doctorates in subjects such as pharmacy, business administration, and finance, have been available for a number of years. The DMedEth is the UK’s first professional doctorate to focus specifically on medical ethics. The MRes is a Masters Level qualification, which incorporates identical research training to the DMedEth, but with a shorter piece of individual research.

    Both courses contain an identical taught element (Part I), which takes two years part-time or one year for the full-time MRes, and will equip you with the skills that you need to write your thesis of up to 60,000 words for the DMedEth (up to 15,000 for the MRes), and to go on to undertake further research in the field of medical ethics.

    You may choose which path to follow in Part II on successful completion of Part I. MRes students have a further year to write up the dissertation, while DMedEth students may take between two and five years to produce the doctoral thesis. Please note that research students will be based within the Research Institute for Law, Politics, and Justice.

    Course Structure and Content

    This is a part-time course, which has been specially designed so that it can be combined with the demands of full-time employment and be available to healthcare professionals from all over the country. The teaching in Part I (the first two years of the course) takes place in three short intensive teaching blocks per year, usually in November, February, and May.

    There are no specific attendance requirements in Part II, but you will also have a personal supervisor, to advise and assist you with your research. We regard high levels of participation in discussion as particularly important for learning in this area, and employ techniques which encourage this whenever possible. Your own work and academic experience will enable you to make an important and distinctive contribution to the seminars.

    Course Modules

    Part 1 Modules (each worth 20 credits at level 4)

    Module 1 – Moral Theory in Medical Ethics Research

    What is moral theory? What moral theories are there? How (if at all) should moral theory be used in medical ethics research? How, (if at all) can moral theory be used to assess and develop healthcare policy and practice? How have medical ethics researchers used moral theory? What are the main criticisms of moral-theoretical approaches?

    Module 2 – Philosophical Medical Ethics

    What is philosophical research? What philosophical techniques and research methods are available? How (if at all) should philosophy be used in medical ethics research? How (if at all) can philosophy be used to assess and develop healthcare policy and practice? How have medical ethics researchers applied philosophy to medical ethics? What are the main criticisms of philosophical approaches?

    Module 3 – Ethical Appraisal

    In this module, you will be invited to use ethics and analytical-philosophical techniques as ways of evaluating policy documents and producing clear and coherent policy documents of your own. The module also addresses the following questions. How can ethics be used to appraise professional practice? How can ethics be used to critically assess policy? How can ethics and analytical-philosophical techniques be used to scrutinise healthcare law?

    Module 4 – Empirical Medical Ethics

    In what ways can empirical work contribute to medical ethics research? What particular roles are there for (eg) biomedical, health-economic, psychological, and sociological evidence? What are the main criticisms that have been directed at empirical approaches to ethics?

    Module 5 – Interdisciplinary Approaches to Medical Ethics

    What is interdisciplinary medical ethics research? What kinds of interdisciplinary medical ethics research are there? How can interdisciplinary work be used in medical ethics research? How can interdisciplinary work be used to assess and develop healthcarepolicy
    and practice?

    Module 6 – Thesis Proposal Conference

    This represents the conclusion of almost two years work on your thesis proposal. You will be invited to present the proposal (which will, by then, be well worked out) to your peers and to a panel of supervisors and/or guest experts.


    Part I

    Part I is taught in six intensive blocks over two years. These are assessed in a variety of ways, including essays, reports, ethical appraisals, and short presentations. In order to proceed to Part II, you must satisfactorily complete Part I.

    Part II

    Part II is the thesis component. Part II of the DMedEth is a thesis of up to 60,000 words, and takes an additional 2-5 years. Alternatively, you may decide to develop your thesis proposal into a 15,000 word dissertation in just one year. This, if successful, will lead to the award of an

    MRes (Master of Research) in Medical Ethics. There are no specific attendance requirements in Part II. You may either meet with your supervisor at mutually convenient times, or keep in touch by email or telephone.

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