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PHILOS 3C03 Advanced Bioethics

Academic Year: Winter 2016

Term: Winter

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Dr. Elisabeth Gedge

Email: gedge@mcmaster.ca

Office: University Hall 303

Phone: 905-525-9140 x 23459


Office Hours: By appointment

Course Objectives:

Course Description:

            In this course we will explore the concept of identity as it relates to various life stages and issues in bioethics. Narrative approaches to ethics have enriched our understanding of the significance, plasticity, and relational dimension of identities across and between lives. Our inquiry will encompass maternal-fetal issues, end of life identities, changing identities in the face of illness, and the resilience and limitations of group identities.

Course Objectives:

  • To understand the ethical meaning and significance of personal identity;
  • To apply this understanding to select bioethical practices and issues;
  • To critically assess the potential of narrative approaches to shape bioethical thinking productively.

Textbooks, Materials & Fees:

Holding and Letting Go: The Social Practice of Personal Identities. Hilde Lindemann; Oxford UP 2014.

Selected articles on reserve (TBA)

Method of Assessment:


Weekly response papers (10)………..…..…10%

Critical analysis (1500 words)……………..25% (due on Avenue by midnight, February 5)

Essay (maximum 2500 words)..………..….35% (due on Avenue by midnight, March 18)

Final exam (as scheduled by the Registrar). 30%

We will be using the Dropbox originality checking system on Avenue in this course. All work submitted on Avenue can be checked automatically by this function to reveal plagiarism. If this occurs, it will be added to the database. If you do not wish to have your work added to the database, please notify Dr. Gedge to make alternative arrangements. No penalty will be assigned if you choose not to submit to Dropbox.


Explanation of requirements:

Weekly response papers: Students are expected to attend and participate in all classes. This means coming prepared to discuss the materials assigned for the day. This is a long hour class, so the class will be divided between lecture and discussion. Discussion questions will be posted on Avenue by Monday each week, and students will bring a one-page response to the questions to the Friday class. The responses will form the basis for small group discussion in the last half of the lecture.

Critical analysis: Your first essay will be a critical analysis of the narrative approach to bioethics,

as demonstrated in the materials we have covered. A specific topic will be handed out in class.

Essay: Your essay will be an assessment of the merit of a narrative approach to bioethics as it is applied to a specific issue (such as identity and end of life; identity and illness etc.).

Final exam: The final exam will be scheduled by the registrar’s office. It will be a two-hour, essay-based exam. Eight questions will be handed out to you in class at least two weeks before the end of classes. These eight questions will be divided into two sections – one dealing with the first half of the course, the other with the second half. Four questions from each section will be on the final exam, and you will be expected to answer one question from each section.

Policy on Missed Work, Extensions, and Late Penalties:


Please Note the Following Policies and Statements:

Academic Dishonesty

You are expected to exhibit honesty and use ethical behaviour in all aspects of the learning process. Academic credentials you earn are rooted in principles of honesty and academic integrity.

Academic dishonesty is to knowingly act or fail to act in a way that results or could result in unearned academic credit or advantage. This behaviour can result in serious consequences, e.g. the grade of zero on an assignment, loss of credit with a notation on the transcript (notation reads: "Grade of F assigned for academic dishonesty"), and/or suspension or expulsion from the university.

It is your responsibility to understand what constitutes academic dishonesty. For information on the various types of academic dishonesty please refer to the Academic Integrity Policy, located at www.mcmaster.ca/academicintegrity

The following illustrates only three forms of academic dishonesty:

  1. Plagiarism, e.g. the submission of work that is not one’s own or for which other credit has been obtained.
  2. Improper collaboration in group work.
  3. Copying or using unauthorized aids in tests and examinations.

Email correspondence policy

It is the policy of the Faculty of Humanities that all email communication sent from students to instructors (including TAs), and from students to staff, must originate from each student’s own McMaster University email account. This policy protects confidentiality and confirms the identity of the student.  Instructors will delete emails that do not originate from a McMaster email account.

Modification of course outlines

The University reserves the right to change dates and/or deadlines etc. for any or all courses in the case of an emergency situation or labour disruption or civil unrest/disobedience, etc. If a modification becomes necessary, reasonable notice and communication with the students will be given with an explanation and the opportunity to comment on changes. Any significant changes should be made in consultation with the Department Chair.

McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)

In the event of an absence for medical or other reasons, students should review and follow the Academic Regulation in the Undergraduate Calendar Requests for Relief for Missed Academic Term Work. Please note these regulations have changed beginning Fall 2015. You can find information at mcmaster.ca/msaf/. If you have any questions about the MSAF, please contact your Associate Dean's office.

Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities

Students who require academic accommodation must contact Student Accessibility Services (SAS) to make arrangements with a Program Coordinator. Academic accommodations must be arranged for each term of study. Student Accessibility Services can be contacted by phone 905-525-9140 ext. 28652 or e-mail sas@mcmaster.ca. For further information, consult McMaster University's Policy for Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities.

Academic Accommodation for Religious, Indigenous and Spiritual Observances

Students requiring academic accommodation based on religion and spiritual observances should follow the procedures set out in the Course Calendar or by their respective Faculty. In most cases, the student should contact his or her professor or academic advisor as soon as possible to arrange accommodations for classes, assignments, tests and examinations that might be affected by a religious holiday or spiritual observance.

Topics and Readings:

Schedule of Readings:

January 8: “Narrative Ethics: A Narrative” Howard Brody and Mark Clark.


January 15: Chapter 1: What Child Is This? The Practice of Personhood

January 22: Chapter 2: The Architect and the Bee. Calling the Fetus into Personhood

January 29: Chapter 3: Second Persons. The Work of Identity Formation

February 5: Critical Analysis due

                    Chapter 4: Ordinary Identity Work. How We Usually Go On

February 12: First Nations and Group Identities.

TriCouncil Policy Statement on Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Humans, 2010, Chapter 9: Research Involving the first Nations, Inuit and Metis Peoples of Canada.


February 19: Mid-term recess

February 26: Chapter 5: Struggling to Catch Up. Challenges to Identity Work

March 4: Guest Lecture: Identities and “Pathologies.”

March 11: Chapter 6: What and When to Let Go. Identities at the End of Life

March 18: Essay Due

                 Guest Lecture: Physician-Assisted Death and Identities.

Good Friday – No class

April 1: What Does it All Mean?

April 8: No Class – Dr. Gedge’s Birthday!

Other Course Information:


*This course outline is subject to change. Any changes will be announced in class and/or posted on Avenue.

* In accordance with the Faculty of Humanities policy, all e-mail correspondence must originate from your McMaster account.

* At the end of term you will be asked to complete a course evaluation

* If you are registered with the Centre for Student Development, or have accessibility issues, please let the instructors know as soon as possible so that appropriate accommodations can be made.