WPCS 2.1.2
Tuition Fees:$4,318 for the full programme
Part-time Study:2 years
Applications Begin:April 2021
Final Award:Master of Science in Medicine (Msc Med)
Start Date:January 2022
Academic Unit:Faculty of Health Sciences
Course Type:Master by Coursework & Research Report
Application Deadline: 30 June 2021
Programme Overview

The aim of the course is to train bioethics and medical law experts who will display skill and proficiency in the fields of bioethics & health law. The course aims to develop capacity and excellence in the ethical & legal analysis of issues arising in health care and research. Graduates will be able to apply their knowledge to the evaluation and management of bioethical and medico-legal problems and to propose solutions that are ethically acceptable and within the constraints of the law.


The curriculum comprises two parts:
– Part 1, the coursework component, entails the successful completion of 5 taught units.
– Part 2 consists of a written research report of at least 15 000, but no longer than 20 000 words in length. Part 1 constitutes 50% of the degree and Part 2 the remaining 50%.

The curriculum extends over two years of part-time study. Students complete the following four units in their first year: Foundations of Bioethics, Foundations of Health Law, Advanced Health Ethics and Advanced Research Ethics.  In their second year, they complete the Research Methods unit and Research Report.

Successful completion of the units and the written Research Report will lead to the degree of Master of Science in Medicine in the field of Bioethics and Health Law.  

Description of Units (Part 1)

The units are taught in a block release form. The block release for each unit is 5 days, with the exception of Foundations of Bioethics. After the teaching blocks have been completed, students are expected to produce written work in the form of tests and essays, for assessment.  These must be submitted by the specified submission due dates.

  • Research Methods 

This course will provide students with rigorous training in independently designing, implementing and evaluating research, including research design, sampling procedures and data analysis. It will cover both research projects of an essentially normative and legal nature, as well as empirical projects (qualitative or quantitative) that include a normative and legal element.  Students will be trained in every part of the research cycle (question formulation; literature review; use of secondary sources; primary and secondary argumentation; ethical and legal analysis; methodology to collect and analyse primary data), including the writing of reports. In terms of values and attitudes, the course aims to instil in students a commitment to ethical research. The course will prepare them to produce a research protocol/proposal suitable to their project, and ultimately a research report.

Foundations of Bioethics

This unit is designed to enable you to analyse and evaluate issues in bioethics within the context of a solid ethical framework. Major theoretical, non-theoretical and other ways of viewing the world will be taught. The course intends to provide a foundational understanding of the relationship between concepts, logic & argumentation and fallacies of reasoning.

Foundations of Health Law

This unit will cover sources of South African law, the Constitution, statutory and common law in the context of health. Criminal, civil and family law and their interaction with health will be explored. The National Health Act will be discussed as well as the amendments to the Medicines & Related Substances Act. International law in relation to health is included in this unit.

Advanced Health Ethics

This unit addresses a number of important issues in bioethics and health law critically and in-depth. Three to four important issues will be focussed on each year relating to ethical and medico-legal issues in clinical contexts, reproductive health, policy and public health, resource allocation, genetics, health and human rights, environmental bioethics and others. Students will learn how to apply the ethical theories, ethical and legal principles, and their critical and analytical skills learnt in the foundation units to specific ethical and medico-legal questions.

Advanced Research Ethics

This unit introduces and explains a number of topical ethical issues in research ethics, including what constitutes unethical research, standards of care in a study, authorship guidelines and plagiarism. The role and modus operandi of Research Ethics Committees are outlined.  Finally, clearly articulated standards of good clinical practice in research relevant to local realities and contexts are provided.  These include obtaining valid informed consent, considering specific subgroups, standards of care for trial participants, access to study medications following completion of a clinical trial, issues pertaining to incentives affecting researchers and participants, releasing and publishing research results and the implementation of research findings.

Description of the Research Report (Part 2)

Students apply what has been taught in the research methods course, as well as the other units in the programme,  and carry out a supervised research study on an approved topic. This research project may be either essentially normative and legal in nature, or empirical with a normative and legal component

Admission Requirements

**Any of the following may be admitted as a candidate:
– A graduate of the University of Witwatersrand who has been awarded any of the following degrees:
– Bachelor of Dental Science
– Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery
– Bachelor of Nursing
– Bachelor of Science in Occupational therapy
– Bachelor of Pharmacy
– Bachelor of Science in Physiotherapy
– Bachelor of Science with Honours, or
**A graduate who has been awarded any other qualification, the normal curriculum of which extends over not less than four years’ full-time study, of the University, who in the opinion of Senate, is sufficiently qualified to undertake the field of study proposed or research (or both) required for the qualification, or
**Any person who has satisfied Senate, by means of written or oral test (or both), or by any other mode of assessment to be determined from time to time by Senate, that s/he is sufficiently qualified to undertake the line of study proposed or research (or both), required for the qualification.

Application Process
Application Fees for South African & SADC Students: $12
Application Fees for International Students: $12

How to apply
– Applications are handled centrally by the Student Enrolment Centre (SEnC). Once your application is complete in terms of requested documentation, your application will be referred to the relevant School for assessment. Click here to see an overview of the Wits applications process.
– Please apply online. Upload your supporting documents at the time of application, or via the Self Service Portal.
– Applicants can monitor the progress of their applications via the Self Service Portal, view academic application status, accept an offer (once certified hardcopies have been received by SEnC), apply and check residence application status, and generate a fees estimate.
– Selections for programmes that have a limited intake but attract a large number of applications may only finalise the application at the end of the application cycle.

Career Opportunities

Some career opportunities are;
– Adjunct Instructor
– Research Associate
– Research Assistant-Ethics
– Bioethicist, Bay Area -Program in Medicine & Human Values

Tuition Fees Details
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Tuition Fees for South African & SADC Students: $4,318
Tuition Fees for International Students: $4,318

*For the MDent and MMed, holders of approved posts are entitled to 90% Remission of fees
*Students from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) member countries pay the same annual tuition fees as South Africans plus an International Registration Fee (IRF). The SADC member countries are Angola, Botswana, Democratic Republic of Congo, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
*Students sponsored by the Government of Rwanda will be treated as and pay the same amount as SADC students.
*Students from all other countries (Non-SADC) will pay the same amount as South African Students
*Diplomats and their dependents stationed in South Africa & International Wits employees and their dependents will pay South African tuition fees + International Registration Fee (IRF).

Relevant Contact

Jillian Gardner
Postgraduate Academic Coordinator