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P140 Introduction to Ethics: Biomedical Ethics

Professor: Sandra Shapshay
Credits: 3

“Introduction to Ethics” is a lecture-discussion class that provides an introduction to major ethical theories of the Western tradition such as virtue ethics, Utilitarianism, and Kantian “duty-based” ethics. The special focus of this class will be on utilizing these theories and various ethical principles that have come out of these theories in the domain of biomedicine. Bridging theory and practice, we will study the “Belmont Report,” which was written in 1974 in large part as a response to atrocious human rights violations committed in the name of research during WWII and in the U.S.’s Tuskegee syphilis experiments. We will investigate the ethical framework provided there for research with human subjects, and then we will turn to serious ethical reflection on the patient/medical professional relationship, end-of-life care and death with dignity laws, and contemporary reproductive technologies. This course has three major aims: To familiarize you with the major classic and contemporary philosophical theories of ethics which have been foundational for the development of Western civilization. To challenge you to examine critically your own pre-conceived ideas about what is right and wrong, good and bad. To develop your critical thinking abilities with respect to arguments about matters of value, and to hone your ability to develop and defend well-reasoned positions on ethical issues both orally and in writing. To enable students to thoughtfully apply ethical theories and principles in the domain of biomedicine. After taking this class, students should be able better to understand, analyze, and rationally evaluate moral claims and arguments, and construct reasonable moral positions and defend them in writing. Progress on the development of these skills will be assessed through homework assignments, quizzes, a short paper and two exams. The skill-set honed in this class is vital for leading an examined public and private life; it should serve you well, far beyond the walls of this classroom.