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Master of Bioethics and Health Law (MBHL)

This course is available

On-Campus, Online

Level of Study

Master's Degree


1.5 years

Next start date

Expected Feb 2024


University of Otago


The Master of Bioethics and Health Law (MBHL) degree is an interdisciplinary postgraduate programme which consists in writing a research dissertation under supervision and completing papers worth an additional 120 points from a schedule of papers. The degree may be awarded with distinction or credit. The degree draws on the resources of both ethical and legal theory, and attends to bioethical problems arising from the increasing use of technology in medicine and changes in the resourcing and delivery of health care.

Subject areas



Why study Bioethics?

It is almost inevitable that bioethical issues will affect our lives. Sometimes we may be unaware that they do.

When deciding to have a child, should the potential parent(s) be able to choose which child they would like to bring into the world? Should they be required to choose the child that is likely to have the best life?

Research on animals is likely to have occurred to develop medical treatments and test their safety. Is it reasonable to use animals in this way? Is it wrong to use animals to test the safety of recreational drugs?

Many things we can choose to do are open to ethical evaluation. Bioethics is the examination of these choices to determine what follows from them, and what the right choice might be.

The ability to identify ethical issues and use reason to evaluate, discuss, and argue about them is a valuable skill. In personal and professional life this skill helps with thinking through choices and conduct. It is also useful for those seeking a future in healthcare and the life sciences to assist with playing an active and responsible role in increasing the benefits they can deliver.

Why study Law?

The LLB degree provides an excellent grounding in such skills as analysing, decision making, negotiation, researching and forming legal and other arguments. Law graduates are skilled in the precise use of oral and written language and these skills are used in a variety of occupations. Among the students enrolling in the First Year Law paper are many who want to gain an understanding of how the law works in New Zealand as part of their degree course. These include students enrolled in Commerce, Science, Physical Education, Health Science, Arts, Consumer and Applied Science and other degrees.

Structure of the Programme

  • A candidate who has completed the requirements for the Postgraduate Diploma in Bioethics and Health Law shall be exempted from those papers in the programme for the degree which have been previously passed for the diploma, in which case the programme will normally consist of the dissertation only.
  • The Bioethics Board of Studies may in special circumstances approve the inclusion in the programme of papers worth up to 30 points which are not listed in the schedule.
  • A candidate who has previously completed two or more papers listed in the schedule for another completed postgraduate diploma or honours degree or equivalent qualification may be exempted from a paper or papers up to a value of 30 points.
  • Law graduates who have passed LAWS 311, LAWS 428, LAWS 448, or LAWS 477 shall be required to take at least 30 points of LAWS papers from the schedule, or to take 30 points of other approved comparable papers.
  • A candidate transferring credits for Law papers from another university shall be required to complete at least one of LAWS 547, or LAWS 548.

Entry criteria

a. Admission to the programme will be subject to the approval of the Director of the Bioethics Centre following consultation with the Bioethics Board of Studies.

b. Every applicant shall possess a postgraduate diploma, or be a graduate with honours or of a four-year undergraduate programme in a relevant discipline. A candidate shall usually have completed the Postgraduate Diploma in Bioethics and Health Law (PGDipBHL) or an equivalent qualification, and shall have achieved an average across all papers of at least B+.

c. All applicants must present evidence of ability for advanced level academic study.

Internet-based TOEFL of 102 or better with a minimum of 24 in each section; or Paper-based TOEFL of 600 or better with a TWE (Test of Written English) of 5.0 or better; or IELTS (Academic) of 7.5 overall with a minimum of 7 in each band.

Don’t meet the English language requirements? The University of Otago Language Centre "English for Otago" programme offers a pathway for Undergraduate and Postgraduate students to meet the English language requirements for undergraduate and postgraduate study.

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