Advanced Medical Ethics (Graduate) Syllabus

Advanced Medical Ethics

Course Outline-Fall 2015

ETH 505

M 6:35-9:25 pm

Rochelle DuFord


Course and Section: ETH 505                                                Credits: 3

Building and Room: Casey 111

Course Description: This course explores medical ethics from two perspectives: the critical analysis of recent bioethics literature and the impact for future health care professionals. Both theory and application will be considered, especially as they relate to informed consent, human personhood, allocation of resources, technological advancement, research methods, professional duties, interpersonal relations, and compassion in the workplace.

Course Objectives:

  • Familiarize students with basic principles in medical ethics, as well as basic principles of moral theory.
  • To develop an understanding of various issues at stake in medical and healthcare practices.
  • To enable students to develop and deepen their views on controversial topics in medical practice.
  • To help students develop critical reading and writing skills. This will involve practice developing and critiquing arguments in speech and writing, as well as reconstructing arguments read in the texts.

Course Philosophy: Philosophy is a study that seeks to provide answers to some of our most basic questions. In this course, we will look at these questions (What is a life worth living, and who decides? Do people have absolute autonomy over their bodies? How ought we to treat other people? When is lying permissible?) through the lens of medical care. We will be discussing issues and topics that are very controversial and about which we all may have differing opinions. My aim in this course is not to convince you that my view on, say, whether abortion is morally permissible is the correct one. Rather, I wish to help you develop your own views and enable you to provide the best argumentative support possible for your own positions. Among my aims is to enable you to discuss these controversial issues while showing respect to your classmates—I want you to be aware that while you may not have been personally effected by any of these medical issues, they are a part of life, and many individuals in the room have been personally effected. For this reason, we will debate these topics, but will do so in a respectful and caring way: no name-calling (i.e. that person is a murderer), broad moral condemnations absent reasoning (i.e. that is just wrong, it doesn’t matter what anyone says), or otherwise disrespectful discussions will be entertained. There is room for us to practice kindness and stewardship to each other while still disagreeing—and we will work toward practicing it in the classroom together.

Importantly, in this course, we will discuss medical issues that are of a contentious and sensitive nature. Please be sure that you do not provide too much information about yourself, your medical care, or medical history. You will never be upset that you revealed too little about yourself in this area, but you may come to regret having revealed too much.

Required Text:

Ronald Munson, Intervention and Reflection: Basic Issues in Bioethics. 9th Edition.

This textbook is quite expensive. While you can purchase it from the bookstore, it is also available for rent via Amazon for roughly $45. Please feel free to rent this book rather than purchase it. I know that the previous editions of this text are quite a bit less expensive, but previous editions do not contain all the texts we will cover.

I will provide other required texts via course management software or distribution in class.

Course Policies:

Technology: Unless you have a documented need for accommodations, laptops are not to be used in class, except as a note-taking or reading device. You may also use e-reading devices or a tablet to read the text should you purchase an electronic version. Any use of technological devices for other purposes will result in a loss of participation points for the week.

Grading formula

A =100-94%, A- = 93-90%, B+= 89-84%, B = 83-80%, B-= 79-77%, C+– 76-74%, C =73-70%, C-= 69-66%, D+= 65-61%, D = 60%, F = 59-0%

Molloy e-mail

All official announcements related to the course will be sent through Molloy e-mail. Students are expected to check their e-mail regularly.

The Communicating Across the Curriculum (CAC) requirement for writing, speaking, listening, and critical thinking is an integral part of all assignments. All aspects of this course will fulfill the CAC requirements.

Academic Integrity

The policy on academic integrity is found in the Student Handbook of Molloy College and Undergraduate Course Catalog. Please review the policy and abide by it.

Statements on Students With Disabilities

Students with documented disabilities who believe they need accommodations in the class are encouraged to contact the Disabilities Support Office, Casey Building, Room 011, so that appropriate accommodations can be implemented

Submission of Late Work

All work is required to be submitted by the due date. Any submission of discussion questions past the time/date due will be counted as a 0. Work submitted late will incur a 10% per day penalty. Make-up exams and writing assignments will be given only in the case of documented emergency or illness.


Case Presentation and Write Up (20% total, 10% each): You will be required to complete two case presentations. In the first instance, this requires that you utilize one of the cases presented in the text (I will provide additional cases should we run out of cases from the text), explain the basic medical ethics debate that it brings about, describe at least one concept that is required to decide the case, and provide reasoning for your own position on the case. These will be done in class each week you will read allowed your written case presentation and be prepared to discuss it with the class. I will present the first case and provide you with my written work, as an example for you. Your second case presentation will take the form of a short discussion on your final paper. You will present the case discussed in your final paper, discuss the ethical principles that apply to the case, and present your position on the issue. Sign-ups for dates and topics will be done in-class, after the add/drop period has passed.

Term Paper Annotated Bibliography and Description/Abstract (15%): You are required to utilize at least two texts for your term paper. You should provide an annotated bibliography (in APA style) as well as a description or abstract of the paper. The description or abstract should be roughly 200 words.

Term Paper Draft (20%): This draft of your final paper will be 1500 words (or 5 pages). Your paper must be in APA style. For this paper you will be required to discuss at least two primary source texts concerning an issue relevant to medical ethics. I will disseminate journal titles and discuss texts that may help you. It will be of help for you to discuss two texts that take opposing positions. Lastly, you will have to take a position on the issue. You will not have to argue for your position here. Simply provide some of the reasons you are convinced this is the right position. I will provide you with feedback to expand your paper.

Term Paper (30%): This will be an expanded version of your draft. Your paper must be in APA style. This paper should be 4000 words (or 15 pages, double spaced). In this paper, you must describe two primary concerning a contemporary issue in medical ethics. In addition, you must take a position on this issue and provide at least two reasons that would convince someone else that this is the correct position. This paper must follow APA format. It will be graded based on both content and form. You will be penalized for errors in spelling, grammar, and other stylistic elements (such as correctly formatted bibliographies and citations). Part of your paper grade will rely on your presentation of the paper during the final exam time. You must coherently explain the position of one of the authors you discuss, as well as your own position. There will be a short time for other students to ask you questions as well.

Attendance and Participation (15%): Both attendance in class, and participation in class are required. Much philosophical work is done best in conversation, not simply by reading and memorizing the assigned texts. You are required to bring the text to class for the day; we will often consult the text, and work on understanding the text itself. Failure to bring the text to class will be considered an absence.

Because attendance is required, lectures will not be made available to students outside of the classroom. If you want to hear the lecture, attend class. Attendance will be taken each class. You may miss 3 classes without penalty. Missing more than 3 classes will result in a -1/3 letter grade, of your final grade, for each additional class missed. Additionally, if you have a documented emergency or illness, please give me the documentation. This will result in an ‘excused’ absence. Any work missed may only be made up if there is documentation of a serious emergency or illness. Scheduling travel, vacation, etc. is not a documented emergency and will not be excused. Any class missed for religious reasons will be excused, but you must contact me at least ONE WEEK prior to the class you will miss. ONLY the religious holiday itself is excused, not any travel associated with it.

You are expected to participate at least once per week. Ways you can participate

  • Asking questions during lecture or during discussion. Questions must be pertinent to the material. If you’re confused about some point in the lecture, chances are you are not alone, so please feel free to ask questions.
  • Answering questions posed by the instructor during lecture, or answering questions posed by others discussion questions during class.

Grading for Participation: Each week you will have the opportunity to earn 5 points for participation. Offering an answer to the instructors question will earn 3 points (this will only earn one point if the contribution is a distraction from course material). Offering an original contribution to the discussion that is well thought out and contributes to the furthering of discussion will earn 5 points. (Some contributions may cause you to lose points, for example, interrupting a fellow student, dominating a discussion by continuously speaking without allowing others a chance, or talking about something that is off topic. Polite on-topic questions or contributions will NEVER cause you to lose points.)

Your weekly average of points earned will determine your grade for participation. Average of 5: 100%

Average of 4.5-4.9: A

Average of 4-4.49: B

Average of 2.5-3.99: C

Average of 1-2.49: D

Average of 0-1: F

All assignments are subject to change with at least one week’s notice.

Reading and Assignment Schedule

(9/10) Week 1:

Introduction to the Course, Discussion of Ethical Principles and Ethical Reasoning. Prior to class please read Chapter 13 (ONLY the SECTIONS: Utilitarianism, Kant’s Ethics, Natural Law Ethics and Moral Theology) Chapter 14 Major Moral Principles (all sections up to “Theories without Principles”). (Total: 42 Pages)

(9/17) Week 2: Research Ethics and Informed Consent

Chapter 2: Readings: Briefing Session and Ethical Theories

Sect 1: Principles of the Nuremberg Code, The Willowbrook Letters: Criticism and Defense, Judgment on Willowbrook.

Sect 3: ALL

(9/24) Week 3: The Duties of Healthcare Providers

            Chapter 1: Readings: Briefing Session and Ethical Theories

Sect 1: Paternalism and Partial Autonomy

Sect 2: Respect for Patients, Physicians, and the Truth

Sect 3: Confidentiality in Medicine: A Decrepit Concept, Supreme Court of California: Decision in the Tarasoff Case

Sect 4: The Dilemma of Jehovah’s Witness Children Who Need Blood to Survive, A Reply to Anita Catlin.

(10/1) Week 4: Genetics

Chapter 3: Briefing Session

Sect 1: The Morality of Screening for Disability

Sect 2: Procreative Beneficence: Why We Should Select the Best Children

Sect 4: Stem Cells From Sin Cells: Ethical Questions, Declaration on the Production and the Scientific and Therapeutic Use of Human Embryonic Stem Cells

(10/8) Week 5: Reproduction

Chapter 4: Briefing Session

Sect 1: “Give Me Children or I shall Die!” New Reproductive Technologies and Harm to Children, Instruction on Respect for Human Life in Its Origin and on the Dignity of Procreation

Sect 2: Why We Should Not Permit Embryos to Be Selected as Tissue Donors, Should Selecting Saviour Siblings be Banned

(10/15) Week 6: Termination: Abortion

            Chapter 5: Briefing Session

Sect 1: Why Abortion is Immoral

Sect 2: A Defense of Abortion, On the Moral and Legal Status of Abortion

Sect 3: Conscientious Objection and Emergency Contraception

(10/22) Week 7: Termination: Euthanasia

Chapter 7: Briefing Session

Sect 1: The Wrongfulness of Euthanasia

Sect 2: Voluntary Euthanasia: A Utilitarian Perspective,

Sect 3: Active and Passive Euthanasia, Is Killing No Worse than Letting Die?

(10/29) Week 8: Organ Transplants and Distributions

Chapter 8: Briefing Session

Sect 1: Alcoholics and Liver Transplantation

Sect 2: The Donor’s Right to Take a Risk, The Case for Allowing Kidney Sales, Conscription of Cadaveric Organs for Transplantation: Let’s at Least Talk About It.

Sect 3: The Prostitute, the Playboy, and the Poet: Rationing Scheme for Organ Transplantation

(11/5) Week 9: Terminally Ill Infants

            Chapter 6: Briefing Session

Sect 1: ALL

Sect 2: ALL

Sect 3: Examination of Arguments in Favor of Withholding Ordinary Medical Care from Defective Infants,

(11/12) Week 10: African Americans and Healthcare

Chapter 11: Briefing Session

Sect 1: ALL

Sect 2: ALL

(Annontated Bibliography and Description Due 11/16 at 11:59pm)

(11/19) Week 11: Women and Healthcare

Chapter 10: Briefing Session

Sect 1: Pregnancy and Prenatal Harm to Offspring, The Rights of “Unborn Children” and the Value of Pregnant Women

Sect 2: ALL

(Term Paper Draft Due 11/23 at 11:59 pm)

(12/3) Week 12: Epidemics: HIV and AIDS

            Chapter 12: Briefing Session

Sect 1: Lethal Sex: Conditions of Disclosure in Counseling Sexually Active Clients with HIV

Sect 2: ALL

(12/10) Week 13: Global Healthcare and the Affordable Care Act

Chapter 9: Briefing Session

Sect 1: Rights to Health Care, Social Justice, and Fairness in the Face of Finitude, Autonomy, Equality, and a Just Health Care System

Sect 2: Equal Opportunity and Healthcare, Healthcare and Equality of Opportunity

Final exam: Date and Time TBA—Term Paper Due on Day of Final Exam


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