Australian Centre for Health Law Research

Shaping law, policy and practice

We are a group of transdisciplinary researchers who conduct innovative research at the intersection of law, health, ethics, and policy. We aim to generate new knowledge to inform reforms to law, policy and practice.

Our research has had significant impact: our recommendations have been adopted by parliaments, courts and tribunals, and law reform commissions. Our work has also influenced state and national policy, prompting changes to clinical education in universities, hospitals and health departments.

We have been awarded significant competitive grants, awards and contracts to conduct research and training.

Our centre directors are Associate Professor Tina Cockburn and Associate Professor Fiona McDonald.

Research expertise

End of life

Challenging legal issues must be addressed at the end of life to ensure that people can die as well as possible.

Our research explores legal, ethical and policy issues in death and dying, including:

  • withholding and withdrawing life-sustaining medical treatment
  • provision of futile treatment at the end of life
  • capacity determinations for medical treatment at the end of life
  • advance care planning
  • palliative care
  • voluntary assisted dying and euthanasia
  • organ and tissue donation.

Theme leaders: Professor Ben White & Professor Lindy Willmott

Learn more about the End of Life research program

Learn more about our Australian Research Council Future Fellowship research project

Health, society and regulation

Law has an impact on individuals and populations when they seek health care. We study the social, regulatory, and ethical challenges associated with the regulation of health care, and aim to resolve some of these challenges.

Our research includes:

  • legal and ethical issues at the beginning of life, for example, abortion and assisted reproductive technologies
  • children's health
  • Indigenous health
  • consent and decision making
  • guardianship, including substitute and supported decision making
  • mental health law
  • compensation and civil liability
  • disability and discrimination law
  • health professional regulation and system governance
  • coronial systems
  • global public health, including air pollution and tobacco plain packaging.

Theme leaders: Associate Professor Shih-Ning Then & Associate Professor Andrew McGee

Planning for healthy ageing

Ageing populations worldwide raise pressing legal, health, social and policy challenges relating to: capacity and decision making; healthcare; financial security; accommodation; elder abuse and ageism.

Our research focuses on:

  • elder abuse
  • capacity assessment
  • cognitive impairment including dementia
  • decision-making
  • housing and aged care
  • future planning including wills and enduring powers of attorney
  • human rights of older persons, including discrimination and ageism
  • access to justice.

Theme leaders: Dr Kelly Purser and Associate Professor Tina Cockburn

Learn more about the Planning for Healthy Ageing research program

Technology, innovation and health

Our researchers are investigating the social, legal and regulatory implications of technology and innovation in health care. We are leading debates on the role of law in regulating emerging and disruptive technologies, with a focus on:

  • regulation of new innovative medical technologies
  • genomics and proteomics, including genome editing and CRISPR
  • gene patenting
  • artificial intelligence and robotics
  • assistive technology
  • bio-printing and 3D printing.

Theme leader: Professor Belinda Bennett

Research with us

We welcome engagement with government, industry, hospitals and health care providers, health professionals, non-governmental agencies, and community and patient groups, as well as other researchers across many disciplines.

Study with us

We offer a vibrant research culture and strong focus on collaborative, multidisciplinary projects in cutting-edge areas of health law research. Our supervisory approach emphasizes: good communication; supervisory teams with a combination of relevant experience, expertise and skills; and a supportive and inclusive research culture where our students are encouraged to participate in ACHLR activities and events. We support our students to succeed.

Explore our student topics

Our researchers

We are internationally renowned for our studies in health law, ethics, technology, governance and public policy. Our members have published in leading journals and presented at conferences nationally and internationally.

PhD scholarships

Applications are open for two scholarships to support the Optimal Regulation of Voluntary Assisted Dying research project.

Applications close 1 October 2020.

Find out more

Our publications

Access our researchers' books and articles on a range of health law topics.

Real-world impact

The work of Professors Ben White and Lindy Willmott has influenced end-of-life law.

Public lectures

Hear from health law experts on YouTube and iTunesU.

Listen to Apple Podcasts

Connect with us

10 Jul 2020

Addressing nurses' fears of legal risks when providing end-of-life pain relief

Adequate pain and symptom relief is a core value of healthcare, medicine and nursing, which is particularly important at the end of life. Yet, some dying patients do not have their symptoms sufficiently controlled, which can cause severe distress to patients, families and health professionals.

17 Jun 2020

ACHLR's New Online Seminar Series: Coffee with a Colleague

The first episode of the new series presents Dr Eliana Close in conversation with Associate Professor James Downar, from the University of Ottawa, Canada as they discuss non-beneficial treatment at the end of life and decision making in the COVID-19 pandemic.