Philosophy 311: Morals & Medicine
Syllabus -- Fall 2009

T & H 10:30 to 11:45 a.m. in MacLean Hall 165

Instructor: Theodore Gracyk 
Office: Bridges 359B     Phone: (218) 477-4089      EMAIL ME (Click Here)

Office hours: Tuesdays, Noon to 4 pm, Wednesdays, 9 am to Noon, Thursdays, Noon to 2 pm, and by appointment.

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. 

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 (three 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.

Formatting of Formal Writing  

All versions of all the formal writing must conform to basic format rules. 

  • They must be typed and double-spaced with a minimum length of text as specified in the assignment. 

  • 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 standard. Times New Roman is a standard font style, as are Helvetica and Arial. A standard 12 point font will give you at least 300 words per page.

  • The essay must have a cover page. Put your name on the cover page. Do not put your name anywhere else on the essay. 

  • Put your WORD COUNT on the cover page.

  • Page numbers must be on the pages. Do not put a page number on the cover page.

  • If you do not know how to start page numbers on the second page of a document, make your cover page a separate document so that you don't disrupt the page numbering of the remainder.

Bibliography Page

  • If you quote from any source, you must attach a bibliography of all sources. 

  •  The bibliography page does not count toward your minimum page total. 

  • If you incorporate ideas from any source other than class lecture or the assigned readings, you must attach a bibliography of all sources. (Notice that this applies to ideas, not just actual words taken from a source.) This page does not count toward your minimum page total.

Carefully 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 at our next class meeting. It must then be handed in, “cleaned up,” no later than the next scheduled class meeting. Such papers will count as one day late. (Notice that if you fail to attend the class session in which I return the papers and your paper needs rewriting to meet the minimum mechanical standards, you do not receive any kind of special extension.)

If I return a paper to you to be “cleaned up” because there are format or grammar problems, and if it is not re-submitted at the next class meeting, it will receive an additional grade reduction for each school day that it is not returned to me. A paper that is not “cleaned up” by the time of the final exam receives a grade of F.

If I return a paper to you because it is too short, you must expand it and resubmit it at the next scheduled class session. Such papers will count as one day late. If it is not re-submitted at the next class meeting, it will receive an additional grade reduction for each school day that it is not returned to me. (Notice that if you fail to attend the class session in which I return the papers and your paper needs rewriting to meet the minimum mechanical standards, you do not receive any kind of special extension.) Failure to resubmit such a paper by the time of the final exam will result in a failing grade for the course.

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 or call 218-477-5937.

Required Textbook:    Bring the book to class every day.

Tony Hope: Medical Ethics: A Very Short Introduction, Oxford University Press

You will also have to print out some readings. Links to those readings are in the "Reading Assignments" section, below on this page.

Grading Policies

You will be graded on these things:

  • Three pieces of formal writing (exceeding 5 pages each) = 60% of grade.
  • Frequent in-class informal writing = 20% of grade.
  • Final exam  = 20% of grade. (Informal writing)

No matter how well you do on the various assignments, you cannot pass the course unless you submit all of the required formal writing.

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. The dates in the table below are dates that I anticipate discussing a new reading for the first time.

Tuesday, Aug 25 --  First day of class
Thursday, Aug 27 -- Hope, Chapter 2: Euthanasia
Tuesday,  Sept  1 -- Hope, Chapter 5: Toolbox for Reasoning 
  & A Market for Death (NY Times)
Tuesday, Sept 8 -- Hope, Chapter 3: Undervaluing "Statistical" People
  & "Costly Cancer Drug" (NY Times) & "In Treatment of Diabetes"
Thursday, Sept 17 -- Hope, Chapter 4: People Who Don't Exist 
  & Invest $10 for Better Health (or here)
Thursday, Sept 24 -- Rationing Ventilators & Capitalism & Physicians' Specializations
  As Doctors Cater (all NY Times)
Tuesday, Sept 29 --  Aquinas on Natural Law 
  & Donum Vitae (print the edited version; here is the complete version)
 Tuesday, Oct 13 -- Mysterious "Fall Breather" -- no class meeting
Thursday, Oct 15 -- Hope, Chapter 6: Madness/Insanity 
 Tuesday, Oct 20 -- The Belmont Report (US Gov't Website) 
  & Handout: "The Death of Subject 13" 
Tuesday, Oct 27 -- Lack of Study Volunteers (NY Times)
 Tuesday, Nov 3 -- Hope, Chapter 7: Genetic Testing
  & "Online Persona" (NY Times) or try HERE
 Thursday, Nov.12 -- Hope, Chapter 8: Medical Research 
  & The Evidence Gap (NY Times)
Thursday, Nov 19 -- Animals and Experimentation: Reading One and Reading Two 
 Thursday, Nov 26 -- Thanksgiving Break -- no class meeting
 Tuesday, Dec 1 -- Hope, Chapter 9: Family Medicine
  Religion, Polio, Vaccination (NY Times)
Dec. 16 -- NOON - Final Exam

Final Exam (in class)  is at Noon on Dec. 16   
The final exam will be an in-class exam. You will see the questions in advance. 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 

  • First Formal Writing (3+ pages) due Sept. 10  -- topic to be announced (this is a draft).
    Rewrite due Nov. 5 (must exceed 5 pages -- attach original!)
  • Second Formal Writing (exceeding 5 pages) due on Oct. 15 (this is not a draft)
  • Third Formal Writing (exceeding 5 pages) date and topic to be announced

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 477-2131 (Voice) or 1-800-627-3529 (MRS/TTY), CMU 114 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! I recently FAILED a student paper because it did not put the following short phrase into quotation marks and it failed to provide a page reference: "premature death is by no means a great harm."

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 Judicial Affairs Office 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 Sept. 15 2009