PP3BMET-Biomedical Ethics

Module Provider: Philosophy
Number of credits: 10 [5 ECTS credits]
Terms in which taught: Autumn term module
Non-modular pre-requisites:
Modules excluded:
Module version for: 2017/8

Module Convenor: Dr Elaine Beadle

Email: e.a.beadle@reading.ac.uk

Summary module description:

This module introduces students to ethical issues arising within contemporary medical practice and some of those raised by new medical technologies currently at the forefront of public debate.


This module introduces conflicts of different values such as autonomy and welfare within a medical context. There will be a focus on diversity and the moral issues surrounding the evaluation of the quality of different lives – an elderly person with advanced Alzheimer’s disease, an infant with Down’s Syndrome, a patient in a persistent vegetative or minimally conscious state. The moral implications of new medical technologies such as stem cell research and gene editing will also be examined.

Assessable learning outcomes:

Students will gain the ability to understand the moral issues raised in the context of contemporary medical practice and research and to evaluate arguments for and against a range of positions and decisions.

Additional outcomes:

Outline content:

Topics covered on the module will typically include:  

  • Autonomy, best interests and imprudent choice

  • Advance directives (identity over time, changing values attitudes and commitments, critical v welfare interests)

  • Futility and withdrawal of treatment (the value of life with serious disability or impairment, patient autonomy and substituted judgement)

  • Self-inflicted illness (personal responsibility, social obligations, distributive justice)

  • Regenerative medicine (stem cell research, the moral status of the embryo, the global implications of extending the human lifespan)

  • IVF gene editing and eugenics (therapeutic genetic medicine and genetic enhancement)

Brief description of teaching and learning methods:

The module is taught by lectures and seminars. Students are expected to attend 10 hours of lectures and 5 hours of seminars during the term in which the module’s lecture and seminar classes take place. All students are required to write a single essay from a list of questions supplied by the module convenor. The essay assignment will be due in week 5 of the Summer term. In addition, students will be required to write a short précis of the topic for discussion in each seminar class. Students are encouraged to be active in all classes, asking questions and trying to answer the questions posed by others. A reading list and sample questions will be given out at the start of the course.

Contact hours:
  Autumn Spring Summer
Lectures 10
Seminars 5
Guided independent study 85
Total hours by term 100.00
Total hours for module 100.00

Summative Assessment Methods:
Method Percentage
Written assignment including essay 100

Other information on summative assessment:

Formative assessment methods:

Students will write a short précis of the topic for discussion for every seminar class. Some classes may involve quizzes.

Penalties for late submission:
The Module Convenor will apply the following penalties for work submitted late, in accordance with the University policy.

  • where the piece of work is submitted up to one calendar week after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): 10% of the total marks available for the piece of work will be deducted from the mark for each working day (or part thereof) following the deadline up to a total of five working days;
  • where the piece of work is submitted more than five working days after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): a mark of zero will be recorded.

  • The University policy statement on penalties for late submission can be found at: http://www.reading.ac.uk/web/FILES/qualitysupport/penaltiesforlatesubmission.pdf
    You are strongly advised to ensure that coursework is submitted by the relevant deadline. You should note that it is advisable to submit work in an unfinished state rather than to fail to submit any work.

    Length of examination:

    Requirements for a pass:

    A mark of 40% overall.

    Reassessment arrangements:

    Written assignment, to be completed in August

    Additional Costs (specified where applicable):

    Last updated: 31 March 2017

    Things to do now