module specification

BM7008 - Ethical Issues in Biomedical Science (2017/18)

Module specification Module approved to run in 2017/18
Module title Ethical Issues in Biomedical Science
Module level Masters (07)
Credit rating for module 20
School School of Human Sciences
Total study hours 200
132 hours Guided independent study
68 hours Scheduled learning & teaching activities
Assessment components
Type Weighting Qualifying mark Description
In-Course Test 40%   Progress Test
Coursework 60%   Long Essay
Running in 2017/18
Period Campus Day Time Module Leader
Autumn semester North Thursday Afternoon

Module summary

This module provides an opportunity for a formal examination of ethical theories (eg deontology, utilitarianism, care ethics, virtue ethics, etc), and to apply these theories to selected topics in contemporary biomedical science

Prior learning requirements

Minimum of a lower second (2.2)  in BSc Biological Science (or a related subject) containing components of human genetics

Module aims

To formally examine and critically reflect on some important normative ethical theories: eg deontology, utilitarianism, care ethics, virtue ethics etc
To critically evaluate how these theories can be applied in ethical analysis and moral decision-making with regard to selected contemporary developments in biomedical science.


The place of Ethics in Biomedical Sciences;
Normative Ethics, Meta-Ethics, Applied Ethics and Professional Ethics.
Topics addressed might include:
The concept of a person and its applicability within Biomedical Science: Animals and human beings. What is a person? Are all persons human beings? Are all human beings persons?;
Birth, life and death of persons: Abortions and personhood; Embryonic stem cell research; Developments in reproductive medicine; Ageing; Defining death; Euthanasia.
Economic issues in health care: Rationing; The use of QALYs; Business and patient perspectives on health care. AIDS: First/Third World medicine; Medicine as commerce.
Patients and others: Consent to treatment; Knowledge and ignorance of prognosis; The Importance of the individual; The Nature of the individual; Cartesian and anti-Cartesian pictures of the Body.
Exploitation of genetic technology.
Nature, nurture and biological research. Case-studies: Organ transplants; Egg donation; Cloning; Choosing children’s qualities; Race and IQ; Eugenics.
Research ethics in the laboratory: vivisection, xenotransplantation and the personhood of animals.

Learning and teaching

Information pertaining to the subject matter will be presented through an integrated programme of lectures (21hrs), seminars (10hrs), tutorials/small-group work (12hrs), together with the guided use of student-centred learning resources (132hrs).  Lectures will be provided to provide a conceptual framework.  Preparation for student centred assignments (25hrs) will enable students to reinforce and expand their knowledge, and develop subject specific skills and competence.
On completion of this module students’ provide an evaluation of how the module enabled them to develop skills such as information technology, organisational skills, team building, communication time management, and working under pressure.

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module students will be able to:
1.  Demonstrate in-depth knowledge and understanding of normative ethical theories.
2.  Identify and critically reflect on moral aspects of various issues in contemporary biomedical science,        and be able to locate those aspects within the framework of normative ethics and ethical decision-making.
3.  Develop and defend critical judgments about often-emotional ethical issues in a calm, rational and balanced manner.

Assessment strategy

The module will be summatively assessed by two components:
i) a time constrained test (40%)
ii) a long essay focusing on the ethical aspects of an important current biomedical issue (2,500 words), (60%)
To pass the module students need to achieve a minimum aggregate mark of 50%. There are no practicals in this module.

   Component   Learning outcomes
   Progress test   1
   Long Essay   1, 2, 3


Beauchamp TL and Childress JF  (2001).  Principles of Biomedical Ethics (5th edition).  Oxford University Press.
Crowley, Mary (ed) (2008), From Birth to Death and Bench to Clinic: The Hastings Center Bioethics Briefing Book, Garrison, New York: The Hastings Center
Darwall S.  Philosophical Ethics, Westview Press, 1998
Gert,B., Culver, C.,Clouser, K. (eds.) (2006) Bioethics: A Systematic Approach, Oxford University Press,
Glad, John (2008), Future Human Evolution: Eugenics in the Twenty-First Century, Hermitage Press,
Pence G (2000).  Classic cases in medical ethics (3rd edition).  McGraw Hill.
Pierce, J.Randels, G. (2009) Contemprary Bioethics: A Reader with Case Studies, Oxford University Press,
Seedhouse D (2001).  Ethics; the heart of health care.  John Wiley an Sons.
Singer, Peter A.; Viens, A.M. (2008), Cambridge Textbook of Bioethics, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press