LAW5386 - Health law and human rights - 2017

6 points, SCA Band 3, 0.125 EFTSL

Postgraduate - Unit

Refer to the specific census and withdrawal dates for the semester(s) in which this unit is offered.



Quota applies

Postgraduate programs are based on a model of small group teaching and therefore class sizes need to be restricted.

Not offered in 2017


For postgraduate Law discontinuation dates, please see

For postgraduate Law unit timetables, please see

Previously coded as LAW7431


This unit will address a range of human rights that arise in the context of contemporary health law, including:

  • Examination of Article 12 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and in particular General Comment No 14, 'The Right to the Highest Attainable Standard of Health;
  • Analysis of the role of the Special Rapporteur on the Right of Everyone to the Enjoyment of the Highest Attainable Standard of Physical and Mental Health;
  • Scrutiny of the impact and potential impact upon health service provision of the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2005 (Vic);
  • Scrutiny of the human rights role of modern public health law;
  • Examination of the human rights repercussions of the distinctions for different purposes in law, medicine and ethics between life and death;
  • Analysis of the role of the living and dead body in contemporary Australia, identifying important human rights decisions in relation to the status of body parts, blood, and trafficking in potentially valuable tissues, amongst other things relevant to post-mortem reproduction;
  • Identification of contemporary controversies internationally about rights to have life support turned off and food and water withheld in the context of persistent vegetative states and other like conditions;
  • Review of the law in relation to euthanasia, both active and passive, comparing Australia's Northern Territory initiative with the Medical Treatment (Physician Assisted Dying) Bill 2008 (Vic), as well as changes to physician-assisted suicide in The Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland and Oregon;
  • Review of the role of the coroner in contemporary Australia as an investigator of death, including the rights of next of kin to object to exhumations and autopsies and to assert an entitlement to the convening of inquests;
  • Identification of major controversies arising from the Patel and Shipman scandals and questions the effectiveness of the coroner as a public health official;
  • Review of the complex rights of patients and medical staff in relation to wrongful birth, wrongful life and wrongful death actions;
  • Examination of litigants' health rights in relation to the provision of sound quality and adequately resourced treatment; and
  • Exploration of the contemporary role of the viatical industry in protecting or exploiting the rights of persons with terminal illnesses.


  1. Understanding of international and local human rights framework for provision of contemporary health services in Australia.
  2. Awareness of human rights issues in relation to provision of treatment and entitlement to treatment.
  3. Awareness of law in relation to health privacy and critical incident review committee workings.
  4. Understanding of distinctions in relation to human rights issues between life and death.
  5. Understanding of the concept and repercussions of the body as property, in a variety of rights contexts including burial, cremation, organ donation and post-mortem reproduction.
  6. Sophisticated understanding of the relevance to the law of human rights in relation to the turning off of life support and physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia.
  7. Understanding of the law of no further resuscitation.
  8. Awareness of the role of the coroner as a decision-maker in relation to rights to autopsy, exhumation; inquests and decision-making about causes of death.
  9. Understanding of rights issues in coronial practices, findings, and recommendations.
  10. Acquaintance with the viatical industry.
  11. Understanding of rights issues in wrongful life, wrongful birth and wrongful death actions.


Research assignment (3,750 words): 50%

Take-home examination (3,750 words): 50%


Assignment (7,500 words): 100%

Workload requirements

24 contact hours per semester (either intensive, semi-intensive or semester long, depending on the Faculty resources, timetabling and requirements). Students will be expected to do reading set for class, and to undertake additional research and reading applicable to a 6 credit point unit.