Instructor(s): Richard Owens, Harvey Schipper

For graduate students, the course number is LAW6013HF.

Note: The Blackboard program will be used for this course. Students must self-enrol in Blackboard as soon as confirmed in the course in order to obtain course information.

This course will deal with challenges from the advances of biological sciences, how law has responded to them, and how it should respond in the future. Philosophical, religious, political, economic and ethical approaches to the formation of policy will be discussed.

The topics to be covered, depending on time, will include: science basics; how intellectual property laws have evolved to serve biotechnology, and whether property rights unduly hinder research; patents on higher life forms; the use of technology and contract to impose "private law" outcomes; privacy rights in genetic information, secondary research uses, and issues of ownership of genetic information and tissues and discoveries; Canada's Assisted Human Reproduction Act, and the debates over human cloning (reproductive and therapeutic) and stem cell research; genetically modified organisms, including foods, and the regulatory and other access to market barriers they face; philosophical and ethical debates over, and legal issues concerning, the improvement of the human species and its members, by genetic, silicon-based or nanotechnological modification; appropriate uses of regulation, legislation, and oversight bodies like research ethics boards; the use of government fiat, through restrictions on government funding, to inhibit certain kinds of research; the regulation of biological research facilities; business practices and legal strategies in the biotech community; physician-assisted dying; and the role of governments in encouraging wealth and well being gains in society through direct or indirect subsidy of biotechnological research.

A paper of 4,750 to 5,000 words (60%), a group project worth 30% (which includes submitting a policy brief of approximately 1,500 – 2,000 words including footnotes/list of sources) and class participation at 10% (5% attendance and 5% general participation). There is no prerequisite for this course.

At a Glance

First Term
Perspective course


21 JD


M: 4:10 - 6:00