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Medical Ethics (LAWS70259)

Graduate coursework level 7Points: 12.5On Campus (Parkville)

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Year of offer2019
Subject levelGraduate coursework Level 7
Subject codeLAWS70259
Availability(Quotas apply)
FeesSubject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date

Medical practitioners, policy-makers, the courts, patients and families are dealing with ongoing debates in medical ethics ranging from euthanasia, abortion, resource allocation and managing the risks of research, to issues thrown up at the cutting-edge of science where we can now edit the germline, or create new life via so-called 'synthetic biology'. While we have existing legal frameworks in place for some of these issues, enormous moral disagreements remain. How should we think about these issues?

This subject aims to provide a basic toolkit and skills to engage in deeper ethical reflection about the major debates in medical ethics and about advances in the biological and neurosciences. Professor Julian Savulescu is Director of the Centre for Practical Ethics, the Oxford Centre for Neuroethics and the Institute for Science and Ethics, University of Oxford. He is Editor of the Journal of Medical Ethics and is a recognised world leader in medical ethics. The goal of this subject is not to provide answers to these medical dilemmas, but to enable students to think more deeply for themselves about what their position is and to be able to justify that position to others. A variety of perspectives will be covered through the use of guest lecturers.

Principal topics include:

  • The current revolution in bioethical reasoning and methods in bioethics
  • Making good medical/moral judgments for self and others
  • Basic ethical theories and concepts
  • Abortion
  • Euthanasia
  • Regulation of research, including:
    • Gene editing
    • Stem cell research and cloning
    • Transgenesis and human-non-human chimeras
    • Synthetic biology
    • Sale of biological material and body parts
    • Regulation of doping in sport
    • Reproductive cloning
    • Human enhancement
    • Genetic selection
    • Coercion in reproduction
    • Neuroethics.

Intended learning outcomes

A student who has successfully completed this subject will:

  • Have an advanced and integrated understanding of the nature of ethical argumentation and major current ethical debates
  • Be able to critically examine, analyse, interpret and assess ethical issues and construct arguments relevant to their practical resolution
  • Be an engaged participant in debate regarding medical ethics, including critically evaluating arguments, and understanding and applying ethical theories and concepts as relevant to their application in a medical context
  • Have a sophisticated appreciation of the interplay between ethics and law in medicine, including how ethical principles are relevant to law
  • Have an advanced understanding of the modes of moral reasoning that are used in healthcare ethics, health care policy, and in different part of the world, including Australia
  • Have the cognitive and technical skills to generate critical and creative ideas relating medical ethics and to critically evaluate existing laws, policies, and ethical arguments pertaining to medical ethics
  • Have the cognitive and technical skills to independently examine, research and analyse ethical arguments or policies, practices or law relating to medical ethics
  • Have the communication skills to clearly articulate and convey complex information regarding medical ethics to relevant specialist and non-specialist audiences
  • Be able demonstrate autonomy, expert judgment and responsibility as a practitioner and learner in the field of medical ethics.

Last updated: 3 April 2019