Philosophy 164                                                                                                                             MWF 10:10-11:00
Medical Ethics                                                                                                                                          Bartlett 206
Spring 2004


Chris Heathwood
Office: Bartlett 361
Office Hours: Mon., Wed. 11:00–12:00 (except for days this class does not meet), and by appt.
Email: heathwood @

Course Description
The practice of medical and biological science raises certain distinctive ethical issues. There are issues concerning abortion, euthanasia, human cloning, human and animal experimentation, resource allocation, organ donation, patient confidentiality, truth-telling, patient autonomy, and more. The purpose of this course is to understand and appreciate the moral questions raised by some of these topics and to consider and critically evaluate some prominent positions and arguments concerning them.

Course Website
The course website, which you should check regularly, can be found here:

There is also a link to it from the “Links” page on the Philosophy Department website (

The website contains (or will contain) a copy of this syllabus; a continually updated table indicating, for each class meeting, what was covered and what readings were assigned; a continually updated course outline; handouts (if any); and the study guide for each exam.

One book is required:

     Kuhse and Singer (eds.), Bioethics: An Anthology (Blackwell, 1999)
     ISBN: 0631203117

(Not to be confused with Kuhse and Singer (eds.), A Companion to Bioethics.)

The book is available from the Textbook Annex.

There will be additional required readings; they will be made available on the course website.

Lectures: You must attend class regularly, taking detailed notes, asking questions (if you have any), and contributing to class discussions (if you have anything to contribute). Some questions on the exams will be in reference to material discussed only in lecture and not in any reading. Although you will not officially be graded on attendance, note-taking, and participation, you will do poorly on the exams (and in general get a lot less out of the course) if you don’t do these things. Furthermore, I am much more likely to “bump up” a borderline grade to the higher grade if I see that a student has attended class regularly, taken good notes, asked questions (either in or outside of class), participated in class, and generally put a lot of effort into the course.

Readings: You must complete each reading assignment on time and be prepared to discuss it, or at least hear it discussed, in class. Most students will have to read each article at least twice to get a good understanding of it. Although you will not officially be graded on how well and carefully you read the articles, you will do poorly on the exams (and in general get a lot less out of the course) if you don’t put a lot of effort into the readings.

Internet: You must have regular access to a computer with a printer and an internet connection. You must check your email and the course website frequently and be able to print out readings from the course website.

Exams: There will be two exams: a midterm and a (non-cumulative) final, both bluebook exams. A study guide will be made available before each exam containing mainly short essay questions. On the day of the exam, I will choose a very small subset of those questions for you to answer. This subset of questions comprises the exam. The exam will be short enough to complete in our 50-minute class period. Exams are open-note and open-book. Although I encourage you to study with your classmates, the notes you bring in must be your own. The submission of duplicate or near-duplicate answers will be considered cheating (see cheating policy below).

The midterm exam will take place in class on (or very near) Wednesday, March 24th. The final exam will take place during finals week.

Your final grade for the course is determined entirely by your performance on the two exams. Although officially each exam is worth the same, I may weigh the exam on which you do better slightly more in determining your grade for the course.

I grade answers to the short essay questions on both content and style. As regards style, aim for the following stylistic virtues: clarity, precision, succinctness, and directness. Avoid flowery language, polysyllabic words, and long, winding sentences. Instead, just make it completely clear to your audience exactly what you are trying to say.

As regards content, be sure you answer each question completely, but do not include any content not relevant to your answer. Especially avoid padding your answer with “fluff” and other BS. They will get you nowhere in philosophy and will hurt your grade in this course.

Passing off another’s ideas or words or answers as your own is cheating. It is very easy to catch and will not be tolerated in this course. Cheaters will receive an automatic ‘F’ for the course and may be subject to expulsion from the university.

Additional Notes
Students with Special Needs: If you are a student with any kind of special need, please do not hesitate to contact me for any necessary accommodations.

Cancelled Class: I already know about a class meeting that, regrettably, I need to cancel: Friday, April 23. In addition, there is some chance I will have to cancel a class in the middle of March because my wife and I are having a baby! If I must cancel class for this, I will do my best to send out notification in advance, by email.