Frontiers of Bioethics

FRONTIERS OF BIOETHICS: EMBODIMENT, PERSONHOOD, AND SOCIAL JUSTICE

This course will center around the recent reports of the President’s Council on Bioethics on stem cell research, cloning, enhancement therapies, and assisted reproduction.  We will begin with some background reading on the classic principles of bioethics—autonomy, nonmaleficence, beneficence, and justice—as well as attention to the development of bioethics as a profession and the relationship of religion to bioethics.  We will then consider the themes and topics raised the President’s Council reports with a view to discerning their theological, social, political, economic, and cultural assumptions and implications.  We will also consider what the reports tell us about contemporary understandings of embodiment, personhood, and relationship to ourselves, our families, our society, and the world in the increasingly globally-conscious field of bioethics.   

In the course of our inquiry, we will press at many “frontiers” of bioethics—asking critical questions about the principles, the profession, the technologies, and the theological, social, political, economic and cultural context of contemporary bioethics.  In so doing, we will, while not bracketing it wholly, seek to get beyond the single issue of the moral status of the embryo, which has dominated much of the recent debate over stem cells and cloning, to consider a variety of issues raised by these new technologies, as well as some specific critiques of their implications. 

First, these technologies have important implications for our understandings of embodiment, personhood, suffering, and perfection.  Second, they raise concerns about the commodification of childhood and our obligations to future generations.  Third, they have elicited important feminist, race, and disability critiques.  Third they raise questions requirements of sustainable medicine, global bioethics, and social justice.  In addressing all of these issues, we will consider the role of religion in bioethics discourse—what it is and what it should be.

Reviews:

“Very helpful to my course of study.  It provided a useful intro to a difficult area, while helping me to think at a more advanced level about religion, medicine, and society.”

“Very useful because bioethics is one of my primary academic interests.”

“This course was useful to my program of study because it provided the opportunity to synthesize current issues as they related to various faith traditions.”

“This course brings together philosophical, theological ethics, into a broader cultural context that is both relevant and practical. This class bridges the rest of my curriculum.”

 “A broad but deep treatment of very current issues and subjects covered in the course. The course provides and opportunity to examine them from a moral perspective.”

 “Information was vast and knowledge-guiding.  Good general survey of major medical-bioethical questions.”

“Excellent syllabus—’bioethics’ could cover a wide range of topics and Prof Green chose books and articles that were relevant to contemporary bioethics debates and interesting as well.”

 “I learned a lot about an important arena in contemporary ethical debates.  Professor Green is excellent, excellent syllabus, excellent at moderating and furthering discussion and excellent about clarifying students’ sometimes ambiguous comments in class.”

 “Excellent and interesting.  I only wish we had more time so we could do more!”

Postscripts

Stephen Cave, “Imagining the Downside of Immortality,” The New York Times, August 28, 2011.

David Ewing Duncan, “How Science Can Build a Better You,” The New York Times, November 3, 2012.

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