Effective: Late Spring 8-Week, 2018/2019

PHIL 460: Biomedical Ethics

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  Course Description

This course is an investigation of problematic cases in biomedical ethics with an emphasis on sound philosophical resolution.

Prerequisite: Junior standing

Proctored Exams: Final



  • Required Readings available online via Columbia College's Stafford Library; Also needed is the Kleinman article, which can be found here: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1335174/.  

  Course Overview

This course is an examination of the philosophical literature surrounding several persistent, important issues in biomedical ethics.

  Technology Requirements

Participation in this course will require the basic technology for all online classes at Columbia College:
  • A computer with reliable Internet access
  • A web browser
  • Acrobat Reader
  • Microsoft Office or another word processor such as Open Office

You can find more details about standard technical requirements for our courses on our site.

  Course Objectives

  • To understand the philosophical issues and problems in biomedical ethics.
  • To be familiar with various attempts to deal with ethical issues concerning health, medicine and end of life.
  • To be able to evaluate approaches to biomedical ethics in order to formulate a personal approach that is coherent and defensible.

  Measurable Learning Outcomes

  • Read classic philosophical prose for critical understanding.
  • Describe and explain the issues and basic approaches to biomedical ethics.
  • Formalize sophisticated philosophical arguments.
  • Identify problems and weaknesses in the basic approaches to biomedical ethics.
  • Analyze and provide criticism of sophisticated philosophical arguments found in biomedical ethics.
  • Formally present possible solutions to problems found in biomedical ethics.


Grading Scale

Grade Points Percent
A 90-100 90-100%
B 80-89 80-89%
C 70-79 70-79%
D 60-69 60-69%
F 0-59 0-59%

Grade Weights

Assignment Category Points Percent
Comprehension Questions (7) 35 35%
Analysis Essays (5) 50 50%
Final Exam (1) 15 15%
Total 100 100%

  Schedule of Due Dates

Week 1

Assignment Points Due
The Dax Case: Comprehension Questions 5 Saturday

Week 2

Assignment Points Due
Kleinman: Comprehension Questions 5 Saturday
Proctor Information N/A Sunday

Week 3

Assignment Points Due
Brock: Comprehension Questions 5 Saturday
Analysis Essay 1 10 Sunday

Week 4

Assignment Points Due
Callahan: Comprehension Questions 5 Saturday
Analysis Essay 2 10 Sunday

Week 5

Assignment Points Due
Tooley: Comprehension Questions 5 Saturday
Analysis Essay 3 10 Sunday

Week 6

Assignment Points Due
Marquis: Comprehension Questions 5 Saturday
Analysis Essay 4 10 Sunday

Week 7

Assignment Points Due
Thomson: Comprehension Questions 5 Saturday
Analysis Essay 5 10 Sunday

Week 8

Assignment Points Due
Final Exam 15 Saturday
Total Points: 100

  Assignment Overview

Comprehension Questions

Every week except the last, you will be assigned several questions designed to assess your understanding of the assigned content for that week, focusing on the arguments developed in the material. You will post your responses in the Discussions area of the course. You are encouraged to engage with your classmates to both better understand the material as well as procure the benefits of “classroom” discussion. These Comprehension Questions will serve as the pool of questions from which the Final Exam will be constructed. Consequently, you will need to ensure that you have high quality answers to each question in order to prepare for the Final Exam.

Analysis Essays

You will choose among prompts provided and compose five Analysis Essays during the course (in Weeks 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7). These are short, formal compositions that call upon you to engage critically with our readings and the issues. Submit these essays to the appropriate Dropbox folder.

You will find rubrics for both Comprehension Questions and Analysis Essays at the close of this syllabus. All of your posts to the Discussion forum and your Analysis Essays must be written formally. Formal rules of English composition, grammar, and mechanics apply for these submissions, and points will be deducted for misspellings, incomplete sentences, poor sentence structure, etc. This is a Senior level course, and since our writing is our sole means of communication in this course, we must strive for clarity in all we write. Take the time to edit and proofread, exhibiting professionalism and academic sophistication.

Final Exam

As noted above, the Final Exam consists of five questions drawn from the Comprehension Questions pool. Each question is worth three points. The exam must be taken under the supervision of a proctor and completed within two hours. (Submit your proctor request before the end of Week 2.) You may not consult any notes, books, flash drives, the Internet, another person, or any other resource while taking the exam. You will have from Monday until midnight Saturday of Week 8 to complete the exam.

  Course Outline

Click on each week to view details about the activities scheduled for that week.

Documentary Video
The content for Week 1 is the documentary film Dax’s Case.
“Arguments and How to Criticize Them”
The Dax Case: Comprehension Questions
Refer to the Content area, Overview and Assignments.
“The Right to Refuse Treatment,” Irwin Kleinman, Canadian Medical Association Journal (1991) 144; 10
Kleinman: Comprehension Questions
Refer to the Content area, Overview and Assignments.
Proctor Information
Submit your proctor form to the appropriate Dropbox folder by the end of the week. Remember to “Save” the form before placing it in Dropbox. See the Content area for more information.
“Voluntary Active Euthanasia,” Dan Brock, The Hastings Center Report, Vol. 22, No. 2. (Mar. - Apr., 1992), pp. 10-22.
“Doing vs. Letting Part 1”
Brock: Comprehension Questions
Refer to the Content area, Overview and Assignments.
Analysis Essay 1
Submit a careful and thoughtful essay responding to one of the essay prompts to the appropriate Dropbox folder.
“When Self-Determination Runs Amok,” Daniel Callahan, The Hastings Center Report, Vol. 22, No. 2 (March-April 1992) 52-55
Callahan: Comprehension Questions
Refer to the Content area, Overview and Assignments.
Analysis Essay 2
Submit a careful and thoughtful essay responding to one of the essay prompts to the appropriate Dropbox folder.
“Abortion and Infanticide,” Michael Tooley, Philosophy and Public Affairs, Vol. 2, No. 1 (1972) 37-65
“Doing vs. Letting Part 2”
Tooley: Comprehension Questions
Refer to the Content area, Overview and Assignments.
Analysis Essay 3
Submit a careful and thoughtful essay responding to one of the essay prompts to the appropriate Dropbox folder.
“Why Abortion is Immoral,” Don Marquis, Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 86, No. 4 (April 1989), 183-202
Marquis: Comprehension Questions
Refer to the Content area, Overview and Assignments.
Analysis Essay 4
Submit a careful and thoughtful essay responding to one of the essay prompts to the appropriate Dropbox folder.
Course Evaluation
Please evaluate the course. You will have an opportunity to evaluate the course near the end of the session. A link sent to your CougarMail will allow you to access the evaluation. Please note that these evaluations are provided so that I can improve the course, find out what students perceive to be its strengths and weaknesses, and in general assess the success of the course. Please do take the time to fill this out.
“A Defense of Abortion,” Judith Jarvis Thomson, Philosophy and Public Affairs, Vol. 1, No. 1 (1971) 47-66
“Doing vs. Letting Part 3”
Thomson: Comprehension Questions
Refer to the Content area, Overview and Assignments.
Analysis Essay 5
Submit a careful and thoughtful essay responding to one of the essay prompts to the appropriate Dropbox folder.
Final Exam
The Final Exam will be opened on Monday. Complete it by midnight Saturday. Remember that this exam must be taken under the supervision of your approved proctor.

  Course Policies

Student Conduct

All Columbia College students, whether enrolled in a land-based or online course, are responsible for behaving in a manner consistent with Columbia College's Student Conduct Code and Acceptable Use Policy. Students violating these policies will be referred to the office of Student Affairs and/or the office of Academic Affairs for possible disciplinary action. The Student Code of Conduct and the Computer Use Policy for students can be found in the Columbia College Student Handbook. The Handbook is available online; you can also obtain a copy by calling the Student Affairs office (Campus Life) at 573-875-7400. The teacher maintains the right to manage a positive learning environment, and all students must adhere to the conventions of online etiquette.


Your grade will be based in large part on the originality of your ideas and your written presentation of these ideas. Presenting the words, ideas, or expression of another in any form as your own is plagiarism. Students who fail to properly give credit for information contained in their written work (papers, journals, exams, etc.) are violating the intellectual property rights of the original author. For proper citation of the original authors, you should reference the appropriate publication manual for your degree program or course (APA, MLA, etc.). Violations are taken seriously in higher education and may result in a failing grade on the assignment, a grade of "F" for the course, or dismissal from the College.

Collaboration conducted between students without prior permission from the instructor is considered plagiarism and will be treated as such. Spouses and roommates taking the same course should be particularly careful.

All required papers may be submitted for textual similarity review to Turnitin.com for the detection of plagiarism. All submitted papers may be included in the Turnitin.com reference database for the purpose of detecting plagiarism. This service is subject to the Terms and Conditions of Use posted on the Turnitin.com site.


There will be no discrimination on the basis of sex, race, color, national origin, sexual orientation, religion, ideology, political affiliation, veteran status, age, physical handicap, or marital status.

Student Accessibility Resources

Students with documented disabilities who may need academic services for this course are required to register with the office of Student Accessibility Resources. Until the student has been cleared through this office, accommodations do not have to be granted. If you are a student who has a documented disability, it is important for you to read the entire syllabus as soon as possible. The structure or the content of the course may make an accommodation not feasible. Student Accessibility Resources is located in Student Affairs in AHSC 215 and can be reached by phone at (573) 875-7626 or email at sar@ccis.edu.

Online Participation

You are expected to read the assigned texts and participate in the discussions and other course activities each week. Assignments should be posted by the due dates stated on the grading schedule in your syllabus. If an emergency arises that prevents you from participating in class, please let your instructor know as soon as possible.

Attendance Policy

Attendance for a week will be counted as having submitted any assigned activity for which points are earned. Attendance for the week is based upon the date work is submitted. A class week is defined as the period of time between Monday and Sunday (except for week 8, when the work and the course will end on Saturday at midnight.) The course and system deadlines are based on the Central Time Zone.

Cougar Email

All students are provided a CougarMail account when they enroll in classes at Columbia College. You are responsible for monitoring email from that account for important messages from the College and from your instructor. You may forward your Cougar email account to another account; however, the College cannot be held responsible for breaches in security or service interruptions with other email providers.

Students should use email for private messages to the instructor and other students. The class discussions are for public messages so the class members can each see what others have to say about any given topic and respond.

Late Assignment Policy

An online class requires regular participation and a commitment to your instructor and your classmates to regularly engage in the reading, discussion and writing assignments. Although most of the online communication for this course is asynchronous, you must be able to commit to the schedule of work for the class for the next eight weeks. You must keep up with the schedule of reading and writing to successfully complete the class.

No late discussion posts will be accepted.

Late submissions are accepted only in extraordinary cases. What counts as an extraordinary case is left to the instructor’s discretion.

Course Evaluation

You will have an opportunity to evaluate the course near the end of the session. A link will be sent to your CougarMail that will allow you to access the evaluation. Be assured that the evaluations are anonymous and that your instructor will not be able to see them until after final grades are submitted.

Proctor Policy

Students taking courses that require proctored exams must submit their completed proctor request forms to their instructors by the end of the second week of the session. Proctors located at Columbia College campuses are automatically approved. The use of ProctorU services is also automatically approved. The instructor of each course will consider any other choice of proctor for approval or denial. Additional proctor choices the instructor will consider include: public librarians, high school or college instructors, high school or college counseling services, commanding officers, education service officers, and other proctoring services. Personal friends, family members, athletic coaches and direct supervisors are not acceptable.

  Additional Resources

Orientation for New Students

This course is offered online, using course management software provided by Desire2Learn and Columbia College. The course user guide provides details about taking an online course at Columbia College. You may also want to visit the course demonstration to view a sample course before this one opens.

Technical Support

If you have problems accessing the course or posting your assignments, contact your instructor, the Columbia College Helpdesk, or the D2L Helpdesk for assistance. Contact information is also available within the online course environment.

Online Tutoring

Smarthinking is a free online tutoring service available to all Columbia College students. Smarthinking provides real-time online tutoring and homework help for Math, English, and Writing. Smarthinking also provides access to live tutorials in writing and math, as well as a full range of study resources, including writing manuals, sample problems, and study skills manuals. You can access the service from wherever you have a connection to the Internet. I encourage you to take advantage of this free service provided by the college.

Access Smarthinking through CougarTrack under Students -> Academics -> Academic Resources.