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Instructor: Molly O’Rourke-Friel. This course meets TR 8:00 – 9:15 a.m. in CW 105.

In this course, we will explore several ethical topics related to medicine. We will discuss questions that arise not only for clinicians, but for patients, their families, researchers, policymakers, and citizens as well. We will engage in critical analysis and discussion of the following:

  • Abortion and Reproductive Justice: Is abortion morally permissible? What determines whether abortion is morally permissible: the moral status of the fetus or the rights of the pregnant person? What is reproductive justice?
  • Procreative Ethics: Do we harm future persons in creating them? Is it morally permissible to select for certain traits in our future children?
  • Disability: What is a disability? Does it necessarily make you worse-off?
  • End-of-Life Decisions: What is the moral force of an advanced directive? How do we make end-of-life medical decisions for those who can no longer decide for themselves? Do patients have a right to end their own life should they choose, i.e., is physician-assisted suicide morally permissible?
  • Addiction: What does it mean to understand substance use disorders on a medical model? On a biopsychosocial model?

We will conclude the semester by stepping back from these more focused topics and considering the purpose of medical intervention and our concept of health. What is health? Ought medicine necessarily be therapeutic? Can medicine have non-therapeutic aims?

There are so many interesting questions to explore in medical ethics, and this is only a brief and non-comprehensive survey. However, in engaging with these issues we will hone our critical thinking, communication, and reasoning skills. In doing so we aim to better understand our own thoughts on these issues, form more coherent and justified positions, and better understand the positions of others.


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