Philosophy 311: Medical Ethics
Syllabus -- Second Summer Session 2006

Theodore Gracyk 
Office: Bridges 359B     Phone: 477-4089     

A consideration of some moral problems that arise in medicine such as truth-telling, experimentation, paternalism, abortion, euthanasia, allocation of sparse resources and health care systems.

Liberal Studies goals: The course should provide an opportunity for the student to understand and articulate different approaches to moral problems. In addition, students will have an opportunity to integrate major intellectual contributions that have shaped Western culture, including that of the United States, in relation to significant civilizational trends and movements.

All versions of all the formal writing must be typed and double-spaced. Margins of an inch on the top and bottom and on the left and right sides of the page are standard. (Margins of an inch and a quarter on the sides are acceptable.) Twelve point fonts are also standard. 

You should proofread your papers. For the final versions of assigned papers, I will accept no more than a total sum of three grammatical errors, typos and spelling errors per page. If you exceed this number, I will return the paper to you, and it must be handed in, “cleaned up,” at the next class meeting. Such papers will count as one day late.

If I return a paper to you to be “cleaned up” and it is not re-submitted at the next class meeting, it will receive an additional grade reduction. A paper that is not “cleaned up” within two weeks receives a grade of F.

If you are worried about your ability to write a paper without making excessive errors, you should bring a draft to the instructor during scheduled office hours. (If you cannot meet with the instructor during those hours, an appointment can be made for another time.)  OR visit the write site! Tutors are available.

For more information, see

Required Textbook:    Bring the book to class every day.

Carol Levine: Taking Sides: Clashing Views on Controversial Bioethical Issues, 11th edition

Grading Policies

You will be graded on five things:

  • Three short essays.
  • Frequent in-class writing
  • Final exam on Thursday, August 10

Each of these elements of the course will be weighted equally in determining your final grade. I use the +/- system in determining final grades.

Late work that does not receive prior authorization to be late cannot receive a grade above C+. The best way to receive prior authorization by speaking to me or by telephoning me and leaving a message on my voice mail. Email is unreliable because I may not have time to see it before the due date for the work.

In-class writing is automatically late if not handed to the professor during the class period in which it is written. In-class writing will often draw upon the assigned readings in order to determine if you have done the reading.

Official University Events and medical emergencies for self or immediate family are the sole basis for exceptions to the above policies, and will require evidence (e.g., a note from your athletics coach for a university sports event or a note from your doctor).

There is no "extra credit" or "make-up" work.


Read the assignment in advance of class on the date indicated. In our textbook, the issues are organized as questions with pairs of conflicting recommendations. Notice that each issue requires you to read two essays.

Monday, July 10  First day of class
Tuesday, July 11  Issue 4: Advance Directives
Wednesday, July 12  Issue 5: Physician-Assisted Suicide
Thursday, July 13  Issue 2: Family Interests
Monday, July 17  Issue 1: Informed Consent
Tuesday, July 18  Issue 20: Conscience & Denial of Service
Wednesday, July 19 
Issue 10: Adolescents
Thursday, July 20  Issue 11: Children and Religion
Monday, July 24  Issue 3: Consumer Advertising
Tuesday, July 25  Issue 8: Abortion
Wednesday, July 26  Issue 9: Pregnancy and Risk
Thursday, July 27  Issue 14: Animal Experimentation
Monday, July 31 
Issue 15: "Sham" Surgery
Tuesday, August 1  Issue 6: Truth-Telling and Culture
Wednesday, August 2  Issue 7: "Futile" Treatment
Thursday, August 3  Issue 16: Health Insurance
Monday, August 7  Issue 12: Stem Cell Research
Tuesday, August 8 
Issue 19: Traffic in Body Parts
Wednesday, August 9  Review for Final Exam

Thursday, August 10      Final Exam (in class)       
The final exam will be an in-class exam. You will be allowed access to limited notes. 


  • First essay is due Wednesday, July 19 (Issue 4, 5, 2, or 1)
  • Second essay is due Monday, July 31 (Issue 20, 10, 11, 3, 8, or 9)
  • Third essay is due Tuesday, August 8 (Issue 14, 15, 6, or 7)

The assignment is to respond to one of the issues covered in the course. 

You may submit an essay before the indicated due date. However, do not write about an issue until we have covered it in class. 
The due date is the last date to turn in an essay on any of the issues attached to that date.

A good essay will be at least two pages in length. It must be typed or word-processed. You must clearly address these four points:

  • State the issue. What situation is being debated?
  • Provide your own recommendation. What is your own moral recommendation for this type of situation?
  • Defend your thesis. Why is that the correct moral evaluation? (For example, what moral principle leads to the result that you recommend?)
  • Deal with problems. What difficulties or objections should you consider? Summarize them and respond to them.

Your essay must have a cover page with a title and with your name. Do not put your name anywhere else on your essay.

Notice of disability services 

The Minnesota State University of Moorhead is committed to a policy of equal opportunity in education and employment and welcomes students with disabilities. We are prepared to to offer you a range of services to accommodate your needs.

However, students must accept responsibility for initiating the request for services. 

Students with disabilities who believe they may need an accommodation in this class are encouraged to contact Greg Toutges, Coordinator of Disability Services at 477-5859 (Voice) or 1-800-627-3529 (MRS/TTY), CMU 222 as soon as possible to ensure that accommodations are implemented in a timely fashion.

Do not discuss your needs with me, your instructor. Talk to Greg and he will contact me.


Plagiarism is passing off somebody else's writing or ideas as your own. There is nothing wrong in consulting any number of sources to help you understand what we are studying (whether an article in The Encyclopedia of Philosophy or a web site or Cliffs Notes) but it is stealing to take material without first paraphrasing it completely into your own words, or without placing it in quotation marks. (Rule of thumb: if you take more than two consecutive words from a source, put them in quotation marks, and if the idea behind a sentence comes from an outside source, acknowledge that source!) Any time you consult and draw on ideas from any source, you should cite your source. Taking ideas from another person and pretending that they are your own, original thoughts, is also plagiarism. The fact that your source was an assigned text for the course does not mitigate or lessen the seriousness of plagiarism.

Students sometimes claim unintentional or accidental plagiarism. It is difficult for an instructor to judge whether the plagiarism was intentional or unintentional. Basically, the latter occurs when a student reads a secondary source or takes notes, writes a paper without looking at the source or the notes, and accidentally uses phrasing and ideas from that source. Or a student may attempt to paraphrase an author's ideas, but fails to put it completely into his or her own words. (If you paraphrase and don't cite your source, that's evidence of intentional plagiarism.)

If evidence demonstrates that you have plagiarized any part of any written assignment for the course, the offense will be reported to the Vice President for Student Affairs and you will receive a failing grade for the course.

In short, if you use an outside source, simply provide footnotes or citations in parentheses where appropriate.

For further information, click here


Grade of "A": An excellent essay in all respects. Clear, grammatical, well organized, and progresses logically, with all elements relevant to the topic. Exhibits both original thought and an accurate grasp of the material. Grammatical errors kept to a minimum.

Grade of "B": A good essay, but not outstanding. Overall organization is clear and coherent, although minor weaknesses may be present. Accurate presentation of material, but generally presents the minimum needed. Limited original thought. A few minor or subtle errors in punctuation and/or spelling.

Grade of "C": A satisfactory paper. Shows basic understanding, with some deficiencies. Organization not always clear and transitions abrupt or lacking. May contain irrelevant material. Weak support of ideas. Occasional grammatical mistakes, or sloppiness which could have been avoided.

Grade of "D": Minimally acceptable work. Marginal grasp of material, ineffective or confusing presentation. Summarizes the most obvious aspects of the material, but otherwise tends to be irrelevant. Little or no organization. Contains major grammatical problems.

Grade of "F": Unsatisfactory. Superficial, incoherent, and/or irrelevant. Writing ability verges on illiteracy. Plagiarism.


                Last updated June 20, 2006