Please note: there may be some adjustments to the teaching arrangements published in the course catalogue for 2020-21. Given current circumstances related to the Covid-19 pandemic it is anticipated that some usual arrangements for teaching on campus will be modified to ensure the safety and wellbeing of students and staff on campus; further adjustments may also be necessary, or beneficial, during the course of the academic year as national requirements relating to management of the pandemic are revised.

Ethical Issues in Public Health MED5612

  • Academic Session: 2022-23
  • School: School of Health and Wellbeing
  • Credits: 20
  • Level: Level 5 (SCQF level 11)
  • Typically Offered: Semester 2
  • Available to Visiting Students: Yes
  • Available to Erasmus Students: Yes

Short Description

This course provides postgraduate students with an interest in health, public health, and society an opportunity to consider the ethical implications of the decisions made around public health problems. Students will be introduced to basic principles of ethics - autonomy, beneficence, non-maleficence and justice - before working with specific Public Health Ethical Principles to explore contemporary issues in health and healthcare.


This course is made up of lectures, tutorials and workshops in semester 2.

Requirements of Entry


Excluded Courses





Three summative assessments:


1. A 2,500w essay exploring an ethical issue of their choice (60%) (ILO 1, 2, 3)

2. A team-produced output that could be shared on social media (e.g. vlog, blog, podcast, infographic) discussing a contemporary ethical debate, written for a lay audience (30%) (ILO 1, 2, 3, 4) (please see Box 41)

3. A 500w reflection on team task, submitted with essay (10%) (ILO 3)

Course Aims

The aim of this course is to enable students from a range of different disciplines to develop a critical understanding of the role of ethics in public health. 


This course aims to facilitate student's critical engagement with a range of theoretical perspective to advance their understanding of ethical issues in relation to public health. Through this, it aims to equip students with the skills to evaluate different ways of analysing an issue, and use these skills 'in practice' to unpack and explore contemporary morally-shaped issues  - for example: palliative care and assisted dying; organ donation and allocation; vaccinations; precision medicine. The course assessment aims to encourage students to become reflexive, critical, and confident contributors to wider social debate on this topic.

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

By the end of this course students will be able to:


1. Outline and critically appraise the role of ethics in understanding contemporary public health issues.


2. Synthesise evidence and apply their own disciplinary learning to formulate an informed response to ethical dilemmas in public health.


3. Critically reflect on their own opinion of ethical issues in public health, and the issues related to communicating this compassionately and respectfully with others.


4. Demonstrate an ability to provide an informed contribution to the wider public debate on substance use to different audiences.

Minimum Requirement for Award of Credits

Students must submit at least 75% by weight of the components (including examinations) of the course's summative assessment.