Law and Life Science Research
Full course description
Life Science research and work operates within a chain from blueskies, theoretical science to very practical product development – from science to technology. Each of these stages is a highly social activity, it relates to the communities in which it is set. Therefore, there is an on-going relationship between science and society. This is governed by a number of structures, particularly law and ethics. These structures are changing in response to scientific developments and societal sensitivity and drive. Taking a number of recent examples, it can be seen that life science research and technology development poses difficult questions for the societies in which they are set. The European Court of Justice’s recent decision in the Brüstle case on the patenting of technologies using research on human embryonic stem cells has far reaching consequences for life science research. The use of medical and genetic data for research where it was gathered initially for patient treatment poses interesting questions about the extent of autonomy and solidarity in society; when is consent required to undertake research, and how far is an appeal to the public interest acceptable where the proposed research is not physically invasive to the patient. The response to genetic modification of food or other organisms shows interesting differences in public opinion. Likewise, the three Eurobarometers on biotechnology show that there is a wide range of sensitivities expressed within the European population. How should regulation respond to that range of opinion? These questions are not only for lawyers and ethicists, but they are for life science researchers.
With respect to knowledge and insight, students acquire knowledge about: Legal rules in international, European and domestic law that operate in the area of life science research; The nature of law, and broad legal principles behind the law’s contribution to governance; Particularly about the way that different types of procedures are used to regulate the life sciences (e.g. research ethics committees, patent law, criminal law, licensing, etc.); Specific laws relating to the use of human tissue and data, human participation in research, and the cross-over between research and therapy; and animal research regulation; Ethics, the precautionary principle, and other risk benefit analysis approaches adopted in normative governance of the life sciences. With respect to application of knowledge and insight, students are trained to: Read and understand legal documents (particularly treaties and European legislation, and guidance documents and codes of practice); Understand how legal and ethical arguments are constructed at different points in the governance chain; Apply these insights to ‘live’ emerging science and bioethics issues. With respect to formation of a judgment, students are trained to: Compare the construction of ‘truth’ and ‘evidence’ in social science, legal, and life science disciplines; Consider how evidence is used in relation to principles in law and ethics; Consider how to adjudicate between different competing and contested arguments within this area. With respect to learning and communication skills, students are trained to: Construct effective, logical and evidenced arguments; Consider how far discussion can be useful in the creation of normative arguments and responses; Develop effective skills in presenting arguments.