PHIL 380 – Bioethics


This subject provides a philosophical examination a range of important issues in bioethics, such as euthanasia, surrogacy, assisted reproduction, human enhancement, genetic pre-selection of embryos, human and animal experimentation and the allocation of healthcare resources.

Topics include:

Autonomy and consent: an introduction to medical ethics, focussing on the doctor-patient relationship.

Resource allocation: Resources are scarce and decisions about how to allocate health resources determine who received treatment and even who lives or dies.

Euthansia: Euthanasia remains illegal in Australia. We consider whether it should be.

Genetic testing: Pre-implantation genetic diagnosis enables embryos to be tested for genetic disease. The technology can also be used to test for non-disease characteristics which some parents may consider desirable. We examine the ethical issues around genetic screening.

Genome editing: Recent advances in gene-editing have made it possible to make targeted modifications to the DNA of any organism. How do we draw the line between acceptable and unacceptable uses of this technology.

Human enhancement: Physical enhancement with drugs has been an issue in sport for decades. In the near future genetic and prosthetic enhancements will become technically possible. Is it wrong to enhance our bodies beyond our natural biological capacities?

Drug Marketing: Global spending on prescription drugs is well over $1 trillion. Like other products, drugs are marketed to increase sales, but in important ways drugs are not just another consumer good. We will look at the ethics of drug marketing.

Clinical trials: The development of new drugs and clinical devices requires testing on humans before they can be approved for general use. We examine the ethics of experimentation on humans.

Commodification: Should DNA be patentable? Should human tissues be commercial resources.

Assisted reproduction: We look at the ethics of IVF.

Stem cells and embryo research: Embryos are destroyed in embryo research. They are also destroyed In the process of obtaining embryonic stem cells. We consider the moral status of embryos and the issues around using them in laboratories.

Animals in research: Animals are extensively used in research. We look at the regulatory system for animal research in Australia and at the ethics of experimenting on animals.



Bioethics is taught by Dr. David Neil, who is an expert in Ethics, Applied Ethics, and Biomedical Ethics.