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Columbia College
Evening Campus
1001 Rogers Street
Columbia, MO 65216
(800) 231-2391


17 / FALL1 - Early Fall 8-Week Session

Course Syllabus

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Course Syllabus
17 / FALL1 - Early Fall 8-Week Session
Evening Campus
1001 Rogers Street
Columbia, MO 65216
(800) 231-2391

Course Prefix and Number: PHIL 460
Course Title: Biomedical Ethics
Semester Credit Hours: 3
Class Day and Time: Thu 
5:30 pm-9:30 pm
Additional Notes:

This course is web-enhanced, taught entirely in a classroom setting using D2L course management software to supplement in-seat content.


Catalog Description

Investigation of problematic cases in biomedical ethics, with an emphasis on sound philosophical resolution. Prerequisite: Junior standing.


Junior standing.



Category/Comments - Your readings will be available as PDFs in D2L.

Course Objectives

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

Additional Instructor Objectives

This should clarify the official course objectives and their implications a bit:
Although we will pay close attention to facts and positions of different kinds - scientific, historical, political, sociological, economic, religious, and more - our emphasis will be on understanding moral concepts and problems involving health, medical care, and the medical profession and its institutions. That is, we will strive to uncover the moral facts and assumptions active in debates about the aims and practice of medicine, and we will assess the arguments made using those facts and assumptions.

As we do this, we will address a mix of ethical concerns for individuals and at the level of society. We consider ethical training for medical professionals, administrators, or consultants can positively affect the clinical setting and institutional systems. Likewise, we will at times discuss how clearer ethical views can contribute to better social policy and firmer grounding for law.

Sessions will feature lecture and discussion (as well as two exams).

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.

Instructional Methods

Class sessions will be spent in

  • reviewing the elements and themes of assigned readings,
  • clarifying concepts and arguments,
  • analyzing arguments for soundness and validity,
  • anticipating objections to the views under discussion, and
  • practicing the application of concepts and arguments to topics beyond those included in the readings, as well as
  • exams

Students should be prepared to engage in discussion about the readings and other relevant areas of bioethics each session.

Out of Class Activities

Your time outside class will be spent

  • reading assigned materials,
  • viewing recorded lectures,
  • preparing for group discussion sessions,
  • writing papers, and
  • preparing for exams.

In this condensed, web enhanced format, you will be reading an average of 25-30 pages total weekly (including Week One), covering multiple essays. The recorded lecture format will apply primarily to Week Eight.

Graded Activities

Exam 1250 Points25% of grade
Description -

Exam 1 features essay questions covering material discussed and lectures  delivered from Week One through Week Four. 

Exam 2250 Points25% of grade
Description -

Exam 2 features essay questions covering material discussed and lectures delivered from Week Five through Week Eight (including the recorded lecture in D2L).

Paper250 Points25% of grade
Description -

A 2,000 word formal paper prepared in Chicago footnoting style due online in the dropbox of the D2L course site the Sunday night that begins Week Eight. 
You will receive detailed guidance on expectations for the paper and suggested topics in D2L. You will begin working on this paper no later than Week Five, submitting your topic during that week, a working outline during Week Six, an introduction during Week Seven, and the final product at the start of Week Eight.
Each of these steps will be submitted in D2L. While they will not receive separate grades, rest assured that they will certainly improve your paper's quality. Further, you must receive an email confirmation from me that your topic and outline have been approved before submitting the final product in order to receive a grade. If you do not, you will receive zero points for the assignment.

4 Group Discussions250 Points25% of grade
Description -

Four times during the course, a block of time will be reserved in class for group discussions on specified topics. For each occasion, you will be notified in advance of the topic and, where relevant, pointed toward required reading or video in the Content area of D2L. Prior to the scheduled discussion, you will develop key concepts, principles, and examples relevant to at least two different (non-agreeing) viewpoints that one might have about that topic. During the scheduled discussion, I will assign you in small groups to collaborate to develop the strongest of these elements into coherent positions. Then, in full group again, we will discuss our findings and analyze the issue.

You are expected to prepare carefully to discuss these topics, to bring your prepared points to class (on paper), and to participate meaningfully in both the small group and full group process. I will collect your written preparations at the end of the discussion sessions. You will receive feedback and your grade, based on your individual performance, in D2L.

The first and second occasions, during Week Three and Week Four, are each worth 50 points. The third and fourth occasions, during Week Six and Week Eight, are each worth 75 points.


Grading Scale

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

Additional Information / Instructions

The reading schedule in this syllabus is subject to revision as necessary. I monitor several bioethics websites and journals, and from time to time I find a new resource that introduces concepts or arguments in a clearer or more concise way. We will take advantage of such discoveries!

If revisions take place, you will be notified in class, by email (in your CougarMail account), and in D2L. If I substitute one reading for another, I will give no less than a week of advance notice of the change.

Schedule of Activities and Assignments

Meeting 1
Syllabus; overview; the 'terrain' of biomedical ethics; sources of ethics; medical oaths; autonomy and well-being, the primary principles of bioethics; the concept 'health'; paternalism

Medical Oaths
Veatch, “Problems in Benefiting and Avoiding Harm to the Patient” (2003) Chapter Four of The Basics of Bioethics, 2nd ed.
Mordacci and Sobel, “Health: A Comprehensive Concept” (1998)
Groll, "What Health Care Providers Know" (2011)

Meeting 2
The ethics of 'the nudge' and its relation to paternalism

Blumenthal-Barby and Burroughs, "Seeking Better Health Care Outcomes: The Ethics of using the 'Nudge'" (2012)
Cohen, "Nudging and Informed Consent" (2013) and selected replies

Meeting 3
Conscientious objection

Prepare for a discussion on this topic:
Is health care a human right?
Remember to develop elements in support of at least two views that do not agree (and bring them to class in printed form).


Card, "Conscientious Objection and Emergency Contraception" (2007)
Dickens, “Legal Protection and the Limits of Conscientious Objection: when Conscientious Objection is Unethical” (2009)
Wicclair, “Conscientious Objection in Medicine” (2000)

Meeting 4

Prepare for a discussion on this topic:
How much medical intervention does a patient (or the guardian of a patient) have a moral right to claim? To put the question another way, how great a limit can a physician's assessment of medical futility -- or if not complete futility, simply the statistically low chance of success -- impose on patient care?  
Remember to develop elements in support of at least two views that do not agree (and bring them to class in printed form).


Schneiderman, "Rationing Just Medical Care" (2011) and selected replies
Callahan, "Rationing: Theory, Politics, and Passions" (2011)
Hurst, et al, "Should Ethics Consultants Help Clinicians Face Scarcity in their Practice?" (2008)


By Saturday at midnight, submit your proposed topic for your paper in D2L. 

Meeting 5
The abortion debate in bioethics

Tooley, excerpt from "Abortion: Why a Liberal View is Correct" in Abortion: Three Perspectives (2009)
Tooley, "Abortion and Infanticide" (1972)


By Saturday at midnight, submit (in D2L) a list of the primary relevant concepts and principles involved in your paper.


Exam 1 (at the beginning of class)

Meeting 6
The abortion debate in bioethics, cont.

Prepare for a discussion on this topic:
Is there a right to have children? If so, does this right extend to cases where it is likely the offspring will experience drawbacks of poor health,  disabilities or other detrimental conditions? Put another way, could there ever be a duty not to have children?
Remember to develop elements in support of at least two views that do not agree (and bring them to class in printed form).


Thomson, “A Defense of Abortion” (1971)
Marquis, “Why Abortion Is Immoral” (1989)


By Saturday at midnight, submit (in D2L) a working outline of your paper, double-spaced, no greater than one page in length.

Meeting 7
End of life issues in bioethics

Rachels, “Active and Passive Euthanasia” (1975)
Brock, "Voluntary Active Euthanasia" (1992)
Callahan, "When Self-Determination Runs Amok" (1992)
Hardwig, "Is There a Duty to Die?" (1997)


Your paper is due in D2L Saturday at midnight.

Meeting 8
Scarce resources: organ procurement

Prepare for a discussion on this topic:
Is there a right to withhold the organs of the deceased from donation? Conversely, does society have a right to procure the organs of the deceased? What limitations might either of these rights have?
Remember to develop elements in support of at least two views that do not agree (and bring them to class in printed form).


Matas, “The Case for Living Kidney Sales: Rationale, Objections, and Concerns” (2004)
Sass, "Toward a More Stable Blood Supply: Charitable Incentives, Donation Rates, and the Experience of September 11" (2013)


View the recorded lecture in the Content area of D2L.


Exam 2 (at the end of class)


Library Resources

Columbia College Resources - Online databases are available at the Columbia College Stafford Library.  You may access them using your CougarTrack login and password when prompted.

Course Policies and Procedures


Columbia College Policy - Columbia College students are expected to attend all classes and laboratory periods for which they are enrolled.  Students are directly responsible to instructors for class attendance and work missed during an absence for any cause.  If absences jeopardize progress in a course, an instructor may withdraw a student from the course with a grade of "F" or "W" at the discretion of the instructor.  For additional information, see the Columbia College policy on Student Attendance.

Instructor Policy - Any absence has negative effects, because class time is spent doing several things, all equally important. First, I will introduce necessary history, theoretical frameworks, and concepts. Second, you will have the opportunity not only to ask your own questions, but also to benefit from the questions and insights of your fellow students. Third, in discussion you will be encouraged (and at times required) to articulate and employ your understanding of the material, the only process which truly makes the content yours.  

An exemplary student is present and punctual; is respectful and attentive to the instructor and classmates; displays evidence of careful reading of the materials prior to class (e.g., responding well when called upon); and volunteers frequent and thoughtful contributions to discussion, including questions carefully formulated prior to class.

To be clear, you are required to do all assigned readings before coming to class, and to be well-prepared to discuss them.

Academic Integrity

Columbia College Policy - Columbia College students must fulfill their academic obligations through honest, independent effort.  Dishonesty is considered a serious offense subject to strong disciplinary actions.  Activities which constitute academic dishonesty include plagiarism, unauthorized joint effort on exams or assignments, falsification of forms or records, providing false or misleading information, or aiding another in an act of academic dishonesty.  For more information, see the Columbia College Academic Integrity Policy and Procedures.

Instructor Policy - Academic integrity is of the utmost importance, and dishonesty will not be tolerated. You are responsible for knowing the policy on academic integrity at Columbia College. 

Further, ignorance of what constitutes academic misconduct, particularly plagiarism, will not be accepted as an excuse: presenting the ideas or work of another as your own in any way is academically dishonest, as is presenting work you have already submitted elsewhere for credit (including work developed for an earlier session of the same course). If you are ever uncertain whether you should provide citations, ask! Assignments including plagiarism will receive a failing grade and may also result in expulsion from the class or a failing course grade. 

Of course, using any unapproved resource during an exam (e.g., smart phones, notes, your neighbor’s answers) is academically dishonest and subject to the same penalties.

Class Conduct and Personal Conduct

Columbia College Policy - Students must conduct themselves so others will not be distracted from the pursuit of learning.  Students may be disciplined for any conduct which constitutes a hazard to the health, safety, or well-being of members of the College community or which is deemed detrimental to the College's interests. Discourteous or unseemly conduct may result in a student being asked to leave the classroom.  For more information, see the Columbia College Student Code of Conduct and Student Behavioral Misconduct Policy and Procedures.

Instructor Policy - In addition to the Columbia College policy, please observe the following expectations. Violation of these rules will result in the student being asked to leave; persistent violation will result in the student being dropped from the class.

  • Be punctual. If I have completed recording attendance, you are tardy (and you are responsible in this case for being sure after class that I record your presence).

  • Beverages are welcome, but please eat before or after class or during a break.

  • Set mobile devices to silent and non-vibrating before class; do not text or check messages during class, including small group discussion sessions.

  • Do not interrupt others or indulge in side conversations.

  • Do not begin packing to leave before I indicate class is finished.

Cancelled Class Make-Up

Columbia College Policy - Classes cancelled because of inclement weather or other reasons must be rescheduled.  For more information, see the Columbia College Inclement Weather Policy.

Instructor Policy - If for any reason I must cancel class, I will do my utmost to send a group email to all students through CougarMail with as much advance notice as possible. For this and other reasons, it is a good idea to set up your email to forward notifications to your smart phone or other devices to be sure you always see CougarMail messages immediately.

I will also attempt in such cases to create a news post within the D2L course site if class is canceled. So I also recommend taking advantage of the Columbia College Online Campus App for your smart devices, which can likewise send you immediate notices about campus closure for weather, news posts, grades posted, and other course information.

Make-Up Examinations

Columbia College Policy - Make-up examinations may be authorized for students who miss regularly scheduled examinations due to circumstances beyond their control.  Make-up examinations must be administered as soon as possible after the regularly scheduled examination period and must be administered in a controlled environment.

Campus Policy - Make up examinations are scheduled on designated Saturday mornings 9am in 103 Buchanan. Students must present a picture I.D. in order to be admitted to the testing session. Students must arrange with the instructor to take the exam before or after it is given in class and permission to take a makeup examination (or any graded activity) is granted at the discretion of the instructor.

Adding, Dropping, or Withdrawing from a Course

Columbia College Policy - Students may add a course through Wednesday of the first week of the session and drop a course without academic or financial liability through close of business on Monday of the second week of the session.  Once enrolled, a student is considered a member of that class until he or she officially drops or withdraws in accordance with College policy.  An official drop/withdrawal takes place only when a student has submitted a Drop/Add/Withdrawal form.  A failure to attend class, or advising a fellow student, staff or adjunct faculty member of an intent to withdraw from a class does not constitute official drop/withdrawal.  The drop/add/withdrawal periods begin the same day/date the session starts, not the first day a particular class begins. If a student stops attending a class but does not submit the required Drop/Withdrawal form a grade of "F" will be awarded.  For more information, see the Columbia College Registration Policy and Procedures.

Instructor Policy - If you need to withdraw from this course and receive a ‘W’ as a final grade, you must submit the appropriate paperwork to the registrar by the official date set by the college. If you are still enrolled in the class after this date, a grade of ‘W’ will not be recorded.

Withdrawal Excused

Columbia College Policy - A student may request an excused withdrawal (WE) under extraordinary circumstances by submitting a Drop/Withdrawal form accompanied by a complete explanation of the circumstances and supporting documentation to the location director.  The WE request must include all classes in which the student is currently enrolled.  The Vice President for Adult Higher Education is the approving authority for all WE requests.  A student who receives approval of their WE request may still be required to return some or all of the federal financial assistance received for the session.  For more information, see the Columbia College Withdrawal Policy.


Columbia College Policy - A student may request that the instructor award a grade of "I" due to extraordinary circumstances (unforeseen or unexpected circumstances beyond the student's control) that prevent a student from completing the requirements of a course by the end of a session.  An "I" will not be given because a student is failing, negligent or not meeting requirements.  If the instructor believes an "I" is appropriate, the instructor will specify the work needed to complete the course and the time allowed to complete the work.  Work missed must be made up within two subsequent sessions unless the instructor specifies an earlier date.  Extensions beyond two sessions must be approved by the Vice President for Adult Higher Education.  If the work is completed during the specified time period, the instructor will change the "I" to the grade earned.  If the work is not completed during the specified time, the instructor may allow the incomplete to remain on the student's permanent record or change it to any other letter grade.  For more information, see the Columbia College Undergraduate Grading Policy.

Instructor Policy - An incomplete grade (‘I’) will be recorded only under extraordinary circumstances. In order to receive an incomplete, a student must have completed at least 60% of the course work with satisfactory results before unfortunate circumstances prevented completion of the course. What counts as sufficient circumstances to warrant an ‘I’ is at the instructor’s discretion.

Grade Appeal

Columbia College Policy - A student may appeal any grade given if it is believed to be in error or in conflict with Columbia College policy and procedures.  The student must state in writing to the location director why the grade awarded is believed to be in error and request a desired remedy.  The faculty member who awarded the grade will be given the opportunity to comment on all student allegations.  If the issue cannot be resolved at the location the appeal will be transmitted through the location director to the Vice President for Adult Higher Education.  A grade appeal must be received for review by the Vice President for Adult Higher Education prior to the end of 60 days from the date the grade was awarded.  For more information, see the Columbia College Undergraduate Grading Policy.


Columbia College Policy - Course prerequisites are established to ensure that a student has adequate academic preparation to succeed in a particular course.  Staff members will attempt to ensure that students meet prerequisite requirements.  However, it is the student's responsibility to closely examine the course descriptions to determine if prerequisites exist and to enroll in courses in the proper sequence.  In some exceptional cases it may be apparent that the student possesses the required skills and knowledge to succeed in a particular course, even though they have not taken the prerequisite course.  In this case the prerequisite course may be waived by the location director.  Waiver of a course as a prerequisite does not remove the requirement to complete the course if it is a requirement for the student's degree program.

Instructor Policy - For this course, Junior standing is a prerequisite. The readings require well-practiced critical thinking, and the expectations are high for thesis development and good composition in your writing assignments.

However, there is no prerequisite in philosophy. I will introduce the necessary ethical concepts as needed, and I will demonstrate the elements of philosophical argument throughout the course. So long as you are prepared to read and think carefully, carry out a strong work ethic to stay on schedule, discuss opposing views rationally and respectfully, and ask questions when the material or philosophical techniques are unclear, you can succeed in this course.


Columbia College Policy - The College provides all students access to CougarMail (the official means of e-mail communication for the College), online resources from the Stafford Library, and their Columbia College records (transcripts, grades, student schedules, etc.) through CougarTrack.


Columbia College Policy - The official student email address (also known as CougarMail) will be used for all official correspondence from faculty and staff.  Students are responsible for the information received and are required to monitor their CougarMail account on a regular basis.  Students may forward their CougarMail to another email account but will be held responsible for the information sent over CougarMail, even if there is a problem with the alternate mail service.

Cell Phones

Columbia College Policy - Cell phones can be a distraction to the learning process.  Location directors or course instructors may require that cell phones be turned off or set to vibrate during class periods.  Students requiring special arrangements to receive a cell phone call during class should make prior arrangements with their location director or course instructor.

Instructor Policy - As noted in the section on classroom conduct, phones must be completely silent and non-vibrating during class. Do not use them during class, even when we break into small groups for discussion.

Bookstore Information

Columbia College Policy - As part of Truition, students will receive their course materials automatically as described below. 

eText Information

If a course uses an eText, (see Textbook information above) the book will be available directly in Desire2Learn (D2L) and through the VitalSource eText reader the Friday before the session begins, if registered for courses prior to that date.  Students will have a VitalSource account created for them using their CougarMail email address.  Upon first login to VitalSource, students may need to verify their account and update their VitalSource password.  More information about how to use the VitalSource platform, including offline access to eTexts, can be found in D2L.  Students that would like to order an optional loose-leaf print-on-demand copy of eligible eTexts can do so through the VitalSource Bookshelf at an additional cost.  Once orders are placed, it can take approximately five to seven business days for students to receive their print-on-demand books.

Physical Course Materials Information

Students enrolled in courses that require physical materials will receive these materials automatically at the address on file with Columbia College.  Delivery date of physical materials is dependent on registration date and shipping location.  Please refer to confirmation emails sent from Ed Map for more details on shipping status.

Returns:  Students who drop a course with physical course materials will be responsible for returning those items to Ed Map within 30 days of receipt of the order.  More specific information on how to do so will be included in the package received from Ed Map.  See here for Ed Map's return policy.  Failure to return physical items from a dropped course will result in a charge to the student account for all unreturned items.

Students who opt-out of having their books provided as part of TruitionSM are responsible for purchasing their own course materials.  Visit for details.


Columbia College Policy - The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) affords students certain rights with respect to their education records.  For more information, see the Columbia College Family Education Rights and Privacy Policy.

Student Accessibility Resources

Columbia College Policy - 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.  For more information, see the Columbia College ADA and Section 504 Policy for Students.

Alcohol and Other Drugs: Columbia College Policies & Resources

Columbia College Policy - Columbia College recognizes the negative health effects associated with the use, possession, and distribution of controlled and/or illicit substances, and their detrimental impact on the quality of the educational environment.  Therefore, all members of the College community share in the responsibility of protecting the campus environment by exemplifying high standards of professional and personal conduct.  For more information and resources, see the Columbia College Alcohol and Other Drugs Policy.

Tobacco-Free Policy

Columbia College Policy - The following policy goes into effect on August 21, 2017.  Columbia College values and is concerned for the health and well-being of its students, employees and visitors. The College is committed to providing a healthful and productive educational and employment environment for members of the College community. Consistent with this commitment and in the interest of the general health and welfare of the College community, the College prohibits the use of all tobacco products and related devices on all College property and premises.  For more information, see the Columbia College Tobacco-Free Policy.


Columbia College Policy - Discrimination, harassment, and retaliation on the basis of protected status (see Notice of Non-Discrimination and Equal Opportunity for a definition of "protected status") are strictly prohibited. Persons who engage in such conduct are subject to discipline up to and including termination or dismissal.  For more information, see the Columbia College Non-Discrimination and Equal Opportunity Policy and Complaint Resolution Procedure.

Columbia College Policy Library

Columbia College Policy - The policies set forth in the Online Policy Library are the current official versions of College policies and supersede and replace any other existing or conflicting policies covering the same subject matter.  The Online Policy Library is currently under construction with new policies being added on a frequent basis and the policies currently listed are not comprehensive of every College policy.  Questions regarding the Online Policy Library should be directed to the Office of the General Counsel.  For more information on policies applicable to students, see Student Policies.  For more information on policies applicable to the entire Columbia College community, see College-Wide Policies.

Technical Support

Columbia College Policy - If you have problems accessing the course or posting your assignments, contact your instructor, the Columbia College Technology Solutions Center, or the D2L Helpdesk for assistance.  If you have technical problems with the VitalSource eText reader, please contact VitalSource.  Contact information is also available within the online course environment.

        - Columbia College Technology Solutions Center:, 1-800-231-2391 ext. 4357

        - D2L Helpdesk:, 1-877-325-7778

        - VitalSource:, 1-855-200-4146


Course Evaluations - All students are encouraged to complete the online course evaluations. Students are notified by way of CougarMail when the evaluations are available. The evaluations are used to help instructors improve their teaching techniques. They are reviewed carefully by the Evening Campus Director, Assistant Director, and several AHE Administrators. Student should know that all responses are completely confidential, instructors only view results after grades are posted. Your input is valued and appreciated.

Late graded assignment/activity policy - All graded assignments or activities are due when stated in the syllabus or by the instructor. Graded assignments or activities submitted after the stated due date/time will not receive any credit unless the instructor has specifically stated that full or partial credit may be awarded to late submissions.

Additional Instructor Policies


If you would like to speak with me outside class in person about the course, you are likely to find me in the office shortly before class, around 4:45 pm to 5:15 pm. My office is St. Clair Hall 212. I'm always happy to discuss course materials.

However, note well that I will not answer questions about material or your works in progress on exam days or assignment due dates.  Do not procrastinate.


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