PHIL 165.001 – Bioethics

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Instructor: Jordan MacKenzie. This course meets MTWRF 11:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. in DA 101.

Advances in biomedical sciences often raise new and interesting ethical questions. We are now, more than ever, capable of controlling when life starts, what sorts of lives are created, and how our lives end. This course is structured ‘chronologically’. Each unit will focus on the bioethical issues that people face at different stages of their lives.

In the first part of the course, we will explore ethical issues related to the creation of human life. Is abortion ever ethical, and if so, when? Is it morally permissible to genetically alter fetuses so that they have increased cognitive or physical capacities?  Is it ever ethical to intentionally create people (say, by selecting embryos based on certain genetic traits) who will be physically or mentally disabled?

Next, we will explore ethical questions that may confront us as adults. Is it ever permissible for a doctor to withhold medical information from a rational patient without their consent? Is it morally permissible to sell human organs? What is informed consent? What ethical principles should govern clinical trials?

Finally, we will look at questions that may confront us at the end of our lives. Is euthanasia ever morally permissible, and if so, under what conditions? Are there limits to what means we may permissibly take to prolong our own lives? To explore these questions, we will draw on both contemporary and historical texts. This course presumes no background in philosophy.