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PHILOS 2D03 Bioethics

Academic Year: Fall 2017

Term: Fall

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Dr. James Sikkema

Email: sikkej@mcmaster.ca

Office: University Hall 314A

Phone: 905-525-9140 x 26465


Office Hours: By Appointment

Course Objectives:

Course Description

This course serves as an introduction to ethical reasoning about issues surrounding human life.  The course will i) begin with a brief introduction to various conceptions of human life and the value accorded to it, ii) will then introduce some basic normative ethical theories (natural law, deontology, utilitarianism and feminism), and will, iii) finally, and for the most part, explore the various applications of these concepts to topics peculiar to bioethical quandaries.  Topics may include problems concerning life and death, reproduction, genetic manipulation, resource allocation, clinical research, healthcare both private and public, and body modification. 


Course Objectives

By the end of the course students will:

  • Have a basic understanding of, and capacity to clearly reason about, issues surrounding bioethics
  • Be able to critically evaluate philosophical ideas and their implications and applications to concrete reality

Textbooks, Materials & Fees:

Bioethics: An Anthology, 3rd Edition.  Edited by Helga Kuhse, et al.  Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2016.  *Available in the Campus Bookstore.

Method of Assessment:

  • Tutorial Attendance & Participation – 10%
  • Case Study 1 – 20% (Due Friday, October 6)
  • Mid-Term Exam – 25% (In Class Friday, October 27)
  • Case Study 2 – 20% (Due Friday, November 24)
  • Final Exam – 25% (TBA)


Note on Tutorial Attendance & Participation

While being physically present in your tutorial section is a necessary condition for your tutorial grade it is not, in itself, sufficient.  Given that, i) the purpose of tutorials is to provide you with a forum for deepening your understanding of the ideas we will be investigating in the lectures, and ii) tutorials largely involve a dialogical format, you are required to come to tutorial prepared to participate.  This requires that you have attended the lectures and have done the readings on which they will be based.


Note on Case Studies

Since bioethics is a species of applied ethics, it will be both necessary and useful to navigate real-life applications of the concepts we will be investigating.  Because it involves critically analyzing and evaluating the viability of a theoretical framework, a case study is a great way to approximate to this real-life application.  You will, therefore, be required to complete 2 case studies during the course of the term.

For both assignments you will be provided with 5 possible case studies to choose from.  Once you have chosen your case study you will be required to, i) identify the essential facts of the case (1 paragraph), ii) identify and explain the fundamental ethical features of the case (1 – 2 paragraphs), iii) raise 4-5 pertinent questions with respect to (i) and (ii), and iv) provide answers to these questions by marshaling an argument for a course of action in relation to the situation (4-5 paragraphs).


Note on Exams

Both exams will be composed of short-answer questions.  The mid-term will be written during class and will consist of 12 questions of which 10 must be answered.  The final exam will consist of 20 questions of which 15 must be answered.  The final may include some material prior to the mid-term, but will largely consist of post mid-term content.

Policy on Missed Work, Extensions, and Late Penalties:

All extension requests must be communicated with the instructor and your TA via email at least one day prior to the due date of the assignment.  Should you fail to perform such a communication your assignment will not be protected from late penalties.

The late penalty for any assignment not submitted on time will be 2% per day.

If you must use MSAF for any assignment please be sure to send the instructor an email stating that you have used MSAF for X assignment.  Once the instructor receives word he will then work out an alternate date for you to submit the missed coursework.  Should you fail to communicate your use of MSAF and fail to work out an alternate deadline for the missed assignment with the instructor you may be liable to receive no credit for the missed coursework. Any late submissions after that time will be subject to 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.