New Course Introduction – Biomedical Ethics (PHIL 335)

Are you planning a career in the medical field? Or are you interested in knowing a bit more about current heath-care issues like informed consent? Why not embark on an ethics-based learning adventure with Athabasca University’s new course, Biomedical Ethics (PHIL 335)?

Recently opened in April 2004, PHIL 335, a 3-credit course in the humanities, will introduce you to the world of medical ethics. First, you’ll discover the meaning of biomedical ethics, and how ethical views influence both our Canadian health care system and other health care systems around the world. In addition, you’ll discover the meaning of moral reasoning, and the theories behind ethics and moral judgment.

Next, you’ll delve into issues surrounding health care resources: for instance, how should they be divided on the educational and social scales? You’ll also discuss powerful issues like informed consent and whether misinformation is ethical… for example, when a patient is diagnosed with a terminal illness. Unit 6 explores ethical issues surrounding research on humans. You’ll consider whether this is acceptable, and ponder the justification behind your reasoning. Next, you’ll delve into the hot debate on abortion–should women have the “right to choose”, or should children have the “right to be”? What factors influence abortion-based decisions? Closely linked to this is the next unit,

Unit 9, which deals with ethical issues surrounding reproduction and genetics. Is cloning acceptable? Is it ethical to test your child for genetic disorders prior to birth? Bringing the life cycle full-circle is Unit 10, where you’ll have the opportunity to understand the factors backing death-based issues, like euthanasia or assisted suicide. Biomedical Ethics (PHIL 335) closes with an appropriate discussion on future views in medical ethics.
Your evaluation in Biomedical Ethics (PHIL 335) is derived from two exercises and an exam. The exercises consist of one assignment, worth 20%, and a case study worth 40%. The case study is a short paper (approx. 2500 words) that discusses one of the cases introduced in the course; it helps solidify the ethical principles taught in the course. The final exam, which equals 40% of your total mark, has an added bonus, says course coordinator Dr. Richardson, since it is “based on the study questions from each unit, so students can prepare for the exam as they work through the course.”

PHIL 335’s course coordinator Professor Mary Richardson has written three applied ethics courses for Athabasca University. Dr. Richardson’s major research interest is in environmental ethics; recently, she has been researching the ethical and policy-related aspects of the precautionary principle.

For more information on this course you can visit the syllabus at:

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