Shining a spotlight on global health law

MLS Professors Ian Freckleton QC and Julian Savulescu, and Associate Professor Jonathan Liberman are exploring the ongoing impact of COVID-19 in new and existing health law MLM subjects.

In response to the legal, regulatory and ethical challenges arising from COVID-19, Melbourne Law School will be teaching several Melbourne Law Masters subjects focusing specifically on global health law.

“Every workplace and every aspect of our lives has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic,” says Co-Director of Studies in Health and Medical Law Professor Ian Freckelton QC.

“As such, we are innovating the Health Law Masters program in order to reflect on legal values, institutional responses and challenges that we are facing during this unfolding crisis.”

Professor Freckelton will be teaching Pandemic Law and Practice, which aims to bring together the relevant strands of law relating to the public health strategies deployed in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. Beginning in November, this brand-new subject has been designed to benefit a wide range of public health professionals looking to manage health information communication during pandemics.

In addition to Pandemic Law and Practice, Professor Freckelton QC is also teaching Health Law and Human Rights, which addresses human rights issues arising from the COVID-19 pandemic. Through this subject, lawyers, medical professionals and public health professionals will develop new understandings around human rights within the health sector – including the right to treatment, an issue, says Professor Freckelton, that is particularly fraught in an environment where resources can be strained and difficult triaging is required

“We are living in extraordinary times in global health,” says Associate Professor in Law and Global Health Jonathan Liberman.

Every workplace is dealing with how to protect the health and safety of their employees. Depending on what kind of workplace that is, the question becomes how do they continue to participate in the system where so much is broken down?

To help answer this question, Associate Professor Liberman will teach Global Health, Trade and Investment Law in August, a subject that will interest those that need to better understand, adapt and adjust their operating practices in light of external global forces.

“We’re understanding in ways that we haven't understood before that health is at the centre of everything that we do, and that almost everything about the way that we live is relevant to health,” says Associate Professor Liberman.

“Through this subject, we explore the intersection between global health trade and investment and why this is so critical.”

Melbourne Law School’s focus on health law will also extend to ethical theory. In Medical Ethics, Director of the Centre for Practical Ethics at the University of Oxford Professor Julian Savulescu will cover recent ethical controversies arising from the COVID-19 pandemic including triage of patients for ventilators, the ethics of lockdown, discrimination, antibody passports, vaccination, and accelerating research.

“It raises the most profound questions which we have refused to openly confront: are all lives of equal value and what price should be put on a life?” says Professor Julian Savulescu.

“Who should get the ventilator? That’s a life and death ethical decision. But then there are broader questions. How should we assess the indirect costs of limiting infections? How much do we value freedom and equality when it comes to decisions about lockdown and selective lockdown of vulnerable groups?”

Professor Savulescu says that vaccine research and allocation bring up even bigger ethical questions.

“Can we use challenge studies- where healthy volunteers are deliberately infected- in order to progress the hunt for a vaccine faster? Would it be acceptable to vaccinate children and have them take on a small risk of vaccination for a large benefit for another group in society?

These subjects will be available online as single units or as part of the Master of Health and Medical Law, the Graduate Diploma of Health and Medical Law, and the Master of Laws: