TOPICS (subject to revision)
1. Medical Ethics. Explore the development of the field of Medical Ethics. Discuss the historical events that necessitated a medical code of ethics, such as the Nazi and Tuskegee experiments. Consider the development of new medical technologies. Bring in one of the major issues covered in this course that you think most requires a written Code of Ethics (abortion, euthanasia, organ transplantation, disability rights, etc.) Apply extensively the theories of a major Philosopher or thinker.
2. Consequentialism. Using the theories of John Stuart Mill, present whether you think it is morally permissible to consider the outcome when deciding if something (involving health and health care) is right or wrong. In other words, do the ends ever justify the means? (One example of this is life-saving medicines discovered through vivisection. Another example is removing someone from extraordinary life support to save on overall costs.) Apply extensively the theories of a major Philosopher or thinker. Take a side on the Ethical Relativism question.
3. Deontological Theory. Can the Duty Ethics of Immanuel Kant be used as a guidepost when we face difficult medical ethics decisions? For example, what does Kantian ethics say about euthanasia? What is the right thing to do for the dying or for those in classic triage situations, in every case? What are seen as the strengths and weaknesses of Kantian Ethics? What is the Categorical Imperative? Is it a useful tool to face our modern dilemmas? Why or why not?
4. The Rights of Minors. There are unique circumstances for minors who require or who voluntarily seek medical treatment. Most states in the U.S. require parental consent for procedures such as gender reassignment surgery, HIV & other STI testing, addiction treatment, contraception, pregnancy testing, and abortion. Discuss the issues surrounding minors’ health care, based upon the corresponding Module in D2L. Should medical institutions maintain a minor’s confidentiality at all times? What if the minor is suicidal or diagnosed with a serious communicable disease? How are the rights of minors different than those of adults? What age should be the cut-off? Apply extensively the theories of a major Philosopher or thinker.
5. The Opioid Epidemic. What is the opioid epidemic? What are the latest statistics — nationally, in Minnesota, and/or in your own town? You may need to do your own research locally. What are the prevailing theories about the cause of the epidemic? Who are the Sacklers? What are some possible solutions to the epidemic? Apply extensively the theories of a major Philosopher or thinker.
6. Gender Identity and modern medicine. What are the major issues regarding gender identity in healthcare and medical ethics? Define what it is to self-identify as Transgender, as well as the clinical term, Gender Dysphoria, now included in the DSM-5. Discuss treatments and whether or not they should be covered by insurance companies. What are the ethical and medical issues regarding treating young people living with Gender Dysphoria? Apply extensively the theories of a major Philosopher or thinker.
7. Universal healthcare. Is healthcare a basic human right? Refer to the UN Declaration on Human Rights and other international treatises. Should everyone in the U.S. be covered? Should health insurance be required by law? Vision, dental and mental health coverage, too? If yes, how do we pay for it? Should insurance companies be regulated? Why or why not / to what extent? The Affordable Care Act: Keep it, modify it, or get rid of it? Apply extensively the theories of a major Philosopher or thinker.
8. Muslim contributions and perspectives in Medical Ethics. Much modern medical knowledge and practice originated with groundbreaking Islamic medical innovations by physicians such as al Razi, Ibn Sina, and Maimonides. From delicate surgeries to pharmacies, control of infectious disease, to the translation of global medical literature, how have Muslim medical practitioners and scholars shaped modern medicine and the ethics of medical practice? How can this tradition be integrated better into current practice in United States’ healthcare system? Apply extensively the theories of a major Philosopher or thinker, including Ibn Sina (Avicenna) and Ibn Rushd (Averroes).
9. Age, aging, and ageism. The Week magazine reported recently that in 2014, 1.6% of Americans were living with dementia (Alzheimer’s and otherwise). By 2060, that number will most likely increase to 3.3%, or 13.9 million people. More and more people expect to live with dementia in their later years. In addition, many elders are raising grandchildren due to the effects of drug addiction. Speak to the issues around our aging population, long-term palliative care, and the ethics of prolonging life and quality of life issues. Analyze growing old in the U.S. Does the experience vary in different communities? Are we taking good enough care of our elders? Why or why not? Propose solutions while applying extensively the theories of a major Philosopher or thinker.
10. New Technologies. Discuss the ethical dimensions of new medical technologies such as stem cell therapies, 3D printing, genetic manipulation, cloning, space travel for medical reasons, nuclear weaponry, and the digital solutions proposed in the Milken Institute panel discussion we encountered in Module 7. What’s ethical and what isn’t? Should we innovate just because we can? Should we allow human cells and by implication, human “life” to be patented and even privately owned and controlled. Apply extensively the theories of a major Philosopher or thinker.
11. Vaccinations. To vaccinate or not to vaccinate is a question that new parents sometimes ask. Are vaccinations safe? What is the science? Is the nature of immunity changing due to changing environmental conditions? Should parents be allowed to withhold inoculations and then send their kids to public school? Analyze the “anti-vaccer” movement and parents’ justifications for not inoculating their kids. Should non-compliant parents and/or their kids be penalized for putting the rest of the population at risk? Why or why not? How? Apply extensively the theories of Immanuel Kant, including the Categorical Imperative.
12. Allocation of resources. Analyze the ethical dimensions of healthcare funding in the U.S., from organ transplantation to research and development for erectile dysfunction, fertility treatments, to genetic manipulation to produce ‘beautiful geniuses,’ access to basic healthcare, hunger etc. If we had all the money in the world to treat everybody for everything, what would be our new code of ethics? Apply extensively the theories of a major Philosopher or thinker.
13. Disability Rights and Issues. Discuss the ethical dimensions of the issues faced in the U.S. by people living with disabilities. Analyze the use of the term “disability,” and how that has changed over the years. Are all disabilities alike? Is Kant’s idea of autonomy somehow negated for adults with developmental disabilities when it comes to sex and reproduction? What would JS Mill say about equality for persons with disabilities? Apply extensively the theories of a major Philosopher or thinker.
14. Benevolence / non-malevolence. Summarize the various oaths that physicians are required to take prior to commencing their medical practice. Then take on the death penalty, abortion, and euthanasia. Do doctors who administer lethal injections to death row inmates, perform abortions, or provide physician-assisted suicide violate their respective oath(s) of benevolence / non-malevolence? Why? Get into the specifics. Are all three areas equal? Why or why not? Apply extensively the theories of a major Philosopher or thinker.
15. Choose your own topic: Is there a topic you would like to write about that is not available above, such as the Ethical Dimensions of the Covid-19 pandemic? Write your own detailed topic proposal based on the uniform structure of the topics above. Include the names of at least two Major Philosophers you will use extensively in your Final Paper, such as JS Mill and Immanuel Kant. Make certain to explain how your topic will be both academically rigorous as well as original. Be prepared to answer questions from Prof Starr by email if there are gaps in your plan. In addition, you must submit a rough draft of your paper by email to Prof Starr by Saturday December 12th.