The Philosophy of Medicine Course

In the Philosophy of Medicine course, we explore key philosophical aspects of contemporary medicine. We begin with an introduction to western philosophy that focuses of key schools of thought such as virtue theory, deontology and consequentialism. We look at how these theoretical foundations relate to healthcare settings, and how we can use critical thought to identify and think through contemporary issues. Through a series of interactive seminars led by eminent speakers and rising stars within the field of bioethics, we question, for example, what is health; who do we consider a person; how do we determine values? We then apply these theoretical ethical issues to healthcare context while also inducting course participants in the elements of constructing good philosophical arguments. We will draw upon theories from philosophy, clinical cases from our practices and from the media, and seminal legal cases to demonstrate the live ethical and more broadly philosophical challenges of medicine and healthcare today. The course and examination both give ample scope for participants to develop their own interests in the field.

Course Director, Philosophy of Medicine Course

Mr Peter Young, M.Bioethics

Course Information

Click here - Full programme 2023-24

Course Insights, Philosophy by Past Course Director, Dr Andrew Papanikitas


The course runs in parallel with the History of Medicine and is intended to give a grounding in philosophical aspects of medical practice, including ethics, as applied to clinical practice. It also provides preparation for those wishing to take the Society of Apothecaries' diploma examination, with post-nominals (DPMSA).

Please note: The course will run on Saturdays in person and, pm select days over Zoom from October 2023-June 2024. Contact the Faculty Manager for any questions.

Course fee for 2023-24
Register onto the course for drop-in days only - click here

Course drop-in fee
£100 Drop-in classes (please mention which course days you would like to attend when emailing application form)

Terms and Conditions - Please click here

Exam Bursaries Criteria

  1. 10 examination bursaries are offered to medical and dental students at UK higher education institutions (HEIs) who are either current students on the main WSAL history and philosophy courses (DHMSA or DPMSA) or who have completed the course in the last 3 years.
  2. Bursaries are allocated on a first come/served basis (with priority given to current students for that year’s allocation) until the due date of the formative essay in philosophy (this being the first necessary deadline for entry to the exam in a given year) or, for history, the deadline for receipt in the Examinations Office of the titles and proposal/abstract for the dissertation and test lecture. In addition, if the examination is deferred or bursaries are not taken up they may be rolled over into the subsequent two years until used.
  3. Furthermore, the Executive Committee (EC) will, with sufficient notice (prior to the deadlines specified), consider exceptional requests from undergraduates in relevant disciplines or professions. The relevance will be determined by the EC whose decisions will be final and not the setting of a precedent. (The Executive Committee may elect to expand this to students of other healthcare disciplines at UK HEIs or other students in fields connected to history and philosophy in the future.)

Eligibility, application and fees for the diploma examination are run separately by the Examinations Office; details can be obtained here.

The Sydney Selwyn Lecture

The lecture formally known as the Sydney Selwyn Prize is in memory of Professor Sydney Selwyn (1934-1996), a medical microbiologist and bacteriologist, bone marrow transplant pioneer, and world-class expert in the history and development of medicine. The lecture is presented by the best candidate in the Diploma in the Philosophy of Medicine examination.

2023 Winner of the Sydney Selwyn is Professor Richard Armitage who will be talking on 'Should your GP help you give one of your kidneys to a stranger?' which will be held on 7 November 2023 at 6pm.

Faculty of the History and Philosophy of Medicine and Pharmacy

If you would like to get involved or learn more about our courses please contact
Telephone: 0207 236 1180