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Instructor: Rebecca Walker. This course meets R 4:00 – 6:30 p.m. in CW 213.

Topic: Bioethics Methods

Philosophical bioethics is sometimes described as “applied moral theory.” This gives the impression that bioethicists mainly interpret normative moral theories in order to generate prescriptions for ethical conduct in medicine and the life sciences. However, philosophical work in bioethics is not necessarily prescriptive and frequently does not proceed by way of applying particular moral theories like Kantianism, utilitarianism, or virtue ethics. In this course we will investigate “methods of bioethics” – approaches that the field has either developed or adapted to address its complex ethical issues. Prominent examples include the four principles (respect for autonomy, beneficence, nonmaleficence, and justice), casuistry, feminist, and narrative approaches – and yes, also applied moral theory. We will interrogate these and other selected approaches for their broader philosophical implications. We will also consider approaches to specific bioethics topics. Examples include the development of principles to guide human subject research, moral theory and the use of nonhuman animals in biomedical research, case-based approaches to medical interventions at the end of life, feminism and dementia care, and critical race theory considerations of representation in research. This course is developed to give a foundational understanding for graduate students interested in teaching bioethics, or who are doing (or are interested in) research in the field.


Please note: This course counts toward the “value theory” distribution requirement for PHIL grad students.

Permission of the instructor is required to enroll in this course. PHIL grad students are exempt from this enrollment requirement.