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Title: PHIL 320-01, Medical Ethics, Fall 2005
Authors: Shade, Patrick A.
Keywords: Philosophy, Department of;Syllabus;Curriculum;Academic departments;Text;2005 Fall
Issue Date: 30-Aug-2005
Publisher: Memphis, Tenn. : Rhodes College
Series/Report no.: Syllabi CRN
Abstract: Some people consider medical ethics a branch of “applied ethics,” since its focus is not on the justification of general moral principles or the development of moral concepts and theories but rather on the “application” of these principles and theories to the specific practices of medicine. This characterization has merit, though I find it unsatisfactory. It (and any topic described as “applied ethics”) suggests the rather odd view that ethics can or should somehow be considered apart from its application to our lives; it suggests, then, a dubious theory/practice split. Instead, I would contend that medical ethics is the consideration of ethical issues that arise in the distinctive contexts of medicine. What I find unique to medical ethics is a concern with the technologies we have developed to enhance and affect our bodies. While we can determine whether we should be kind or honest without giving special attention to either our bodies or our technologies, it’s very difficult to determine whether we should allow experimentation on human embryos, clone ourselves, or allow physician assisted suicide without considering the different tools – whether machines, vitamins, or therapies – that affect our embodied existence. While many of our texts will explicitly acknowledge the role technology plays, few will explicitly comment on or analyze our embodied existence. This poses a challenge for you the student to ask why this is so. Is it because our authors assume we all know we are biological organisms, or because they think this fact only discloses part of what it means to be a human being? Are we more than bodies? And what’s a body anyway? These questions will linger beneath the surface of the course, but I encourage you to consider them. We will address more explicitly questions about how medicine can and should affect the different stages of our lives. For the purposes of this course, I have boiled human life down to three main stages: birth, development & flourishing, and death. This is surely an oversimplification, but it provides a helpful arc for structuring a wide variety of different but also interconnected issues in medical ethics. We will begin not with issues concerning death but rather than birth for two reasons. First, I don’t want to discuss death in November and December. Second, I surmise that all of you have (or are beginning to have) some sophisticated thoughts about death, while fewer of you have probably considered birth (whether your own or that of your future children) in much detail. Before we get into the life cycle, though, we will explore the concepts of dignity, autonomy, and personhood – three prominent (and related) ideas in contemporary discussions of medical ethics.
Description: This syllabus was submitted to the Rhodes College Office of Academic Affairs by the course instructor.
Appears in Collections:Course Syllabi

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