Honors | Applied Ethics
P242 | 27890 | Sandra Shapshay

MW 9:30-10:45am

California voters recently pass an initiative to allocate $3 billion
to fund embryonic stem cell research. Does such research on nascent
human life treat humanity without due respect? Approximately 40
million Americans lack all health insurance, including nearly 9
million children. Does this constitute an appaling injustice, or is
this merely the unfortunate price we must pay for a high-quality
healthcare system (for those who can afford it)? Does a terminally-
ill, suffering patient have the right to a physician-assisted
suicide? Or does such help constitute a perversion of the goals of
the medical profession?

Welcome to Biomedical Ethics, where we will seek to gain a rational
understanding of what we as a society and as individuals ought to do
regarding these sorts of ethnical quandaries. Biomedical ethics aims
to determine what is right or good with respect to various practices
in healthcare, biomedical research and new medical technologies. It
is a relatively new (about 35 years old) and exciting field of
study. The field came into existence due to the amazing advances in
the biomedical sciences made in the 20th century, advances which
seem to trespass ethical boundaries, as well to the notorious abuses
of vulnerable people (e.g. by Nazi and American scientists in the
early 20th century) which called for the scientific community to
develop explicit codes of ethics for scientific research with human

In this course, we will study a variety of philosophical approaches
to ethical questions surrounding 3 main contemporary issues: 1. How
U.S. society allocates medical resources, 2. Euthanasia and
physician-assisted suicide, and 3. Genetic engineering, including
eugenics, cloning and embryonic stem cell research. Students are
expected to be very active participants in this course, and will
give a presentation and defense of one of the articles we’ll be
reading (basically, be the author’s advocate). In addition, there
will be three 5-6 page paper assignments, class debates,
presentations and guest speakers, students should develop the skills
to do independent research in bioethics, a very exciting and
burgeoning field, and they will hone their argumentative writing
skills so that they may defend a position on a controversial issue
in an informed, clear, well-reasoned and effective manner.