Philosophy 311: Medical Ethics
Syllabus -- Second Summer Session 2007

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.

General Course Goals:

  • Understand differences between major normative theories.
  • Understand core concepts of ethical analysis.
  • Apply normative theories to cases and demonstrate understanding of how different theories generate competing solutions.
  • Defend personal decisions in complex moral situations.
  • Think and write critically about moral problems.

In addition to these course-specific goals, this course will devote significant attention to Dragon Core outcomes in Category 9: Ethical and Civic Responsibility.

Learning Outcomes for Dragon Core – Students will be able to:

  • Understand core ethical concepts including right, wrong, duty, virtue, vice, care, harm, and respect and use them to articulate their own ethical views.
  • Explain the grounds of their ethical and civic commitments and respond constructively to those whose beliefs differ of the range of morally relevant consequences of different situations.
  • Make responsible personal, professional, and civic decisions and evaluate how these affect other people.
  • Understand core concepts of self-government including rights, duties, public and private goods, pluralism, minority rights, and majority rule and apply them to -- Issues that affect the community and their own daily lives

This is a Writing Intensive Course. The quality of your formal writing will affect your course grade.

The course combines informal writing (short pieces of writing produced during class sessions), integrative formal writing in which you will explain, integrate, and evaluate material covered in the assigned readings (four essays), and one less formal essay (a final exam that requires you to apply what they’ve learned to a case study not previously covered in class). 

Taken together, the four pieces of integrative writing must be at least a minimum of 16 pages (4800 words).

Robert Hughes, one of the most articulate and important art critics of recent years, has said this about the process of writing: “My main impulse for writing a book was to force myself to find out about things I didn't know. … Otherwise, why do it at all?” This point encapsulates my goals for having you write. Writing is a mode of exploration. There is no reason to write except to find out things you did not already know, including things about yourself, such as your own position on controversial topics.

Writing Intensive Outcomes

  • You will use a coherent writing process including invention, organization, drafting, revising, and editing to form an effective final written product. To do this, the course will combine informal and formal writing. Informal writing will be used to formulate ideas that will be important in formal writing. The first paper will require submitting a draft.
  • You will consult effectively and appropriately with others to produce quality written products. To do this, the first paper will require submitting a draft.
  • You will read, analyze, evaluate, synthesize, and integrate appropriately and ethically both information and ideas from diverse sources or points of view in their writing. To do this, you will write essays, quizzes, and a final exam. Each will require you to integrate material from multiple sources (e.g., different books plus material presented in class).
  • You will create logical, engaging, effective written products appropriate for specific audiences and purposes. Students will be provided with a rubric that clarifies this expectation.
  • You will use correct grammar and mechanics in writing. Essays will not be graded unless they satisfy reasonably high standards, spelled out in the assignments.

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” by the time of the final exam 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, 12th edition

Grading Policies

You will be graded on these things:

  • Two "short pieces of formal writing (600 words each) = 20% of grade.
  • Two "long" pieces of formal writing (1800 words each) = 40% of grade.
  • Frequent in-class informal writing = 20% of grade.
  • Final exam on Tuesday, Aug. 7 = 20% of grade.

No matter how well you do on the various assignments, you cannot pass the course unless you submit all of the required formal writing and meet the minimum word limits with acceptable grammar and mechanics.

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.

Thursday, July 5  First day of class
Monday, July 9  Issue 5: Disaster Conditions ~ DRAFT writing due
Tuesday, July 10  Issue 6: Physician-Assisted Suicide
Wednesday, July 11  Issue 1: Informed Consent
Thursday, July 12  Issue 2: Truth-Telling & Culture ~ 2nd writing due
Monday, July 16  Competing Moral Principles (no reading in book)
Tuesday, July 17  Issue 3: Consumer Advertising 
Wednesday, July 18 
Issue 10: Adolescents  
Thursday, July 19  Issue 11: Children and Religion
Monday, July 23  Issue 20: Conscience & Denial of Service
Tuesday, July 24  Issue 7: Doctors' Refusal of "Futile" Treatment
Wednesday, July 25  Issue 8: Abortion
Thursday, July 26  Issue 9: Pregnancy and Risk
Monday, July 30  Issue 12: Federal Ban on Stem Cell Research 
Tuesday, July 31
Issue 16: Federal Funding & Doctors' Orders  
Wednesday, August 1  Issue 14: Animal Experimentation 
Thursday, August 2  Issue 15: Prisons & Research  No new material (Issue 15 cancelled)
Monday, August 6  Issue  Issue 19: Traffic in Body Parts 
Tuesday, August 7  FINAL EXAM

Tuesday, Aug. 7     Final Exam (in class)       
The final exam will be an in-class exam. You will be allowed access to limited notes (whatever you can fit on one sheet of standard paper). It is not cumulative.

Formal Writing: due dates 

  • Draft of first essay is due Monday, July 9 
  • Second essay is due Thursday, July 12
  • First "long" essay is due Wednesday, July 18  (Issue 20, 10, 11, 3, 8, or 9)
  • Second "long" essay is due Tuesday, July 31(Issue 14, 15, 6, or 7)

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 

                Last updated Aug. 2, 2007