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This course is designed to enable doctors, nurses, allied health professionals and others working in health care to reflect on some of the major ethical issues raised by their clinical/professional practice. The emphasis will be on developing professionals’ skills of ethical reasoning and decision-making, to help them become better equipped to address the full range of ethical issues they face in their working lives. No specific previous study of health care ethics is assumed, but the course will enable those who have previously studied health care ethics to build on their prior knowledge. It will begin with an overview of ethical theories and approaches to moral reasoning in health care ethics. The rest of the course will focus on practical topics, which may include: clinical decision-making and informed consent; trust, truth-telling and confidentiality in patient-caregiver relationships; allocation of scarce resources; withholding and withdrawing life-prolonging treatment; assisted dying; conscience and conscientious objection.

Professor Neil Messer

This course has been written and will be delivered by Professor Neil Messer, Professor of Theology at the University of Winchester, who has researched and published extensively in healthcare ethics and related fields



Blended Learning

Learning and teaching

The course will involve a total of 12-18 hours study. Including 6 hours’ contact time with the course leader and 6-12 hours online independent study.

The online self study materials contain videos, reading materials and resources for participants to use as part of their learning and must be completed prior to attending teach day. 

The contact hours will be delivered via 6 hours teaching, and will include facilitated discussion. The teaching will be delivered at the University of Winchester, Sparkford Road Winchester Hampshire SO22 4NR, unless government restrictions at the time do not make in person delivery possible, in which case the course will be delivered online.

This distance-learning course is delivered via Canvas. Due to government regulations, Instructure (Canvas) prohibits the unauthorised use of its products and services in specific countries and regions. We need to make these restrictions clear to individuals considering this course. Please see the guidance as documented by Canvas.

Which countries are restricted from using Canvas?

This course requires access to the following:

  • Windows XP SP3 and newer
  • Mac OSX 10.6 and newer
  • Linux - chrome OS
  • 1GB of RAM
  • 2GHz processor
  • Minimum of 512kbps (basic DSL)

JavaScript must be enabled in your browser.

  • Chrome 19
  • Safari 5
  • Firefox 12






This course is predominately aimed at health care professionals (doctors, nurses, allied health professionals) interested in improving their knowledge and understanding of health care ethics.

A good command of the English Language is required, both written and oral.

Course enquiries and applications

The course will repeat every academic term,

The first date contact day is Friday 8 October 2021.

The online materials will be available from 27 September 2021.

Book Now

For general enquiries contact the short course coordinator

For academic/ content enquiries please contact Neil Messer


Modules Credits

Topic 1 - Moral reasoning in health care ethics

This topic will introduce participants to some of the most influential ethical theories and approaches to health care ethics, including Beauchamp and Childress’ four-principles approach, utilitarianism and virtue ethics. Participants will be encouraged to consider how each approach can be used to reflect on practical ethical issues and concerns in health care practice, and think about some of the strengths and weaknesses of each.

Topic 2 - Withholding and withdrawing life-prolonging treatment

This topic explores some of the ethical issues at stake in decisions about whether to withdraw or withhold life-prolonging medical treatments – including ethical questions about decision-making processes, particularly for patients who lack the capacity to make these decisions for themselves.

Topic 3 - Euthanasia and assisted suicide

This topic will survey the principal ethical arguments about assisted dying (euthanasia and assisted suicide), and will explore the ethical commitments and values at stake in public debates about changing the law in the UK to permit assisted dying.

Topic 4 - Allocation of scarce health care resources

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought ethical questions about the allocation or just distribution of scarce health care resources into sharp focus, but ethical issues about resource allocation occur in a wider range of health care contexts than just the pandemic. We shall explore a range of approaches to distributive justice in health care and assess various possible criteria for making resource allocation decisions.

Topic 5 - Clinical decision-making and patient-caregiver relationships

This topic covers various aspects of the relationships between health care professionals and patients, including (for example) informed consent, trust, truth-telling and confidentiality.

Topic 6 - Conscience and conscientious objection in health care

What role does a health care professional’s conscience play in guiding their professional practice? Should professionals have the right to opt out of practices or procedures to which they conscientiously object? If so, what should be the limits of that right to conscientious objection? This topic will explore arguments for and against a right to conscientious objection, and the fundamental ethical issues underlying these debates.

Please note the modules listed are correct at the time of publishing, for full-time students entering the programme in Year 1. Optional modules are listed where applicable. Please note the University cannot guarantee the availability of all modules listed and modules may be subject to change. For further information please refer to the terms and conditions at
The University will notify applicants of any changes made to the core modules listed above.

Progression from one level of the programme to the next is subject to meeting the University’s academic regulations.

Course Tuition Fees and Additional Costs

The introductory fee is £175 
You will receive joining instructions via email within 10 days of the start date.

Total Cost | £175

Key course details

12-18 hours
Blended Learning