Whence and whither ‘modern medical law’?


  • Margaret Brazier University of Manchester
  • Jonathan Montgomery University of Manchester


medico-legal history, deference, regulation of health, future


Academic study of law relating to healthcare has flourished in the UK. Yet our field of study is often seen as ‘new’, both as an ‘area of importance in legal practice and as an academic discipline’. We argue that practical engagement between English law and medicine has a long history, a history revealing that claims of historic deference from one learned profession (the law) to another (medicine) is a myth. We further contend that ‘medical law’ as an academic discipline also enjoys a history. We explore these histories by looking back to the late medieval and early modern eras, and then show that crucial developments in more recent history have been overlooked in the emphasis on medical law as ‘new’. An appreciation of whence ‘medical law’ is crucial to assessing how future directions for law and scholarship in relation to the regulation of health may develop – whither it may go.