Leh 355 Bioethics

Syllabus, F20 [basics]

How this works: Given that we’re online, I will be making videos and posting them to Blackboard; discussion will take place via BB Discussion Board threads. While this course is asynchronous, it is possible for us to ‘meet’ via BB Collaborate, whether for class or ‘office hours’.

Required reading (books available at the bookstore or online; there are also online readings, linked below):
Aldous Huxley, Brave New World  (any edition)
Liza Mundy, Everything Conceivable, 2008, 9781400095377
Erik Parens, ed. Enhancing Human Traits, 1998, 0878407030

Course requirements:
… Discussion board participation: 20 points
… Science quiz, Sept 30-Oct 1: 20 pts
Note: you will be given separate handouts for the paper assignment
… Two papers (8-10 pages EACH): 33 pts ea.
… … … PAPER 1: Outline & references (3pts) due by Oct 23; final paper (30pts) due by Nov 6
… … … PAPER 2, Outline & references (3pts) due by Nov 20; final paper (30pts) due by Dec 11

No extra credit will be available.

(NOTE: If the NHGRI or NIH sites become unavailable, e-mail me for pdfs of the documents.)

Days 12, Aug 27-Sept 1 Introduction; Eugenics, genetics, and making ourselves better
*Lisa Ko, Unwanted Sterilization and Eugenics Programs in the United States

Days 3-5, Sept 3-10, Science!
*National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI): Deoxyribonucleic acid | Chromosomes | A brief guide to genomics | Genetic mapping

Days 6-7, Sept 15-17: More science!
*Univ of Utah, Gene therapy: Gene Therapy | What is | Approaches | Challenges | Successes; Epigenetics | The Epigenome learns from experience | Epigenetics and Inheritance
*National Institutes of Health (NIH) , Gene Therapy
*Brad Plumer, et al, A simple guide to CRISPR
*National Academies, Human Genome Editing report highlights

Days 8-9, Sept 22-24: The end of science!
*President’s Council on Bioethics (PCB), Reproduction & Responsibility, ch. 2 §I; ch. 3 §I; ch 4 §I; ch. 5 §I
*NIH, Stem Cell Basics (either click on the pdf link for full version, including glossary, or read all 8 questions)
*NHGRI, Cloning Fact Sheet
*Recommend: W Zakrzewski, et al. Stem cells: past, present, and future (2019)

***September 29: Monday schedule: NO CLASS***

Sept 30-Oct 1  Science quiz (quiz will be available during these two days)

Days 11-12 Oct 6-8 Ethics!
*BBC: Consequentialism | deontological ethics

Days 13-14, Oct 13-15 More ethics!
*Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Natural law §§ 1.2-.3 | Virtue ethics, §§ 1-1.2
*Thomas R. McCormick, Principles of Bioethics
*Belmont Report
*Encyclopedia Britannica, Casuistry
*Huxley: Begin (continue through end of semester)

Days 15-16 Oct 20-22 Assisted reproductive technologies: why?
*Mundy, prologue, chs 1-4; begin chs 5-8
*PCB, Reproduction & Responsibility, ch. 2 §II

Days 17-18 Oct 27-29, Variations and complications
*Mundy, finish chs 5-8; begin chs 9-12
*PCB, Reproduction & Responsibility, ch. 3 § II-III; ch. 4 §II-III; ch. 5 §II-III; ch. 6 – all

Nov 6: Paper 1 due

Days 19-20 Nov 3-5 ART, variations and complications
*Mundy, finish chs 9-12; 13-14, Epilogue, Afterword
*Ed Yong, The CRISPR baby scandal gets worse by the day

Days 21-22 Nov 10-12 ART; Stem cells, regulations, ethics
*PCB, Monitoring Stem Cell Research, chs. 2-3
*NIH Guidelines on Human Stem Cell Research
*Bernard Lo & Lindsay Parham, Ethical Issues in Stem Cell Research
*NBAC, Ethical Issues in Human Stem Cell Research, Vol III: Religious Perspectives
*David B. Hart, The Anti-Theology of the Body

Days 23-25 Nov 17-24, Enhancement
*Parens: Parens, pp. 1-28; Juengst, pp. 29-47; Brock, pp. 48-69

***November 26, Thanksgiving: NO CLASS***

Days 26-28, Dec 1-8, Enhancement, what’s it all about
Parens: Silver, pp. 95-123; Davis, 124-134, Cole-Turner, pp. 151-161; Little, 162-176; Elliott, 177-188; Winkler, pp. 238-250

December 11: Paper 2 due


Suggested readings:


Paper Guide

General notes on writing a research paper can be found at Research and writing. Everything from how to do searches to finding online articles to citing sources can be found here. I STRONGLY SUGGEST YOU VISIT THIS SITE. Other information may be found a Bioethics articles, Bioethics laws & regs, and Bioethics sites & docs; to help pick and to find further resources on your topic.

This is a formal research paper, and as such, should be typed, double-spaced, and include 8-10 pages of body copy, as well as a list of references and either foot- or end-notes. And while a title page is unnecessary, a title should be included.

Any requests for extensions must be made by e-mail before the due date.

Papers overview:
Given that this is a course on the ethics and politics of assisted reproductive technologies (ART), genetics, and human embryonic stem cells (hESCs), your papers, unsurprisingly, must relate to ART, gene therapy, enhancement, regenerative medicine, or biotechnology. Further, the ultimate focus must be on humans: topics centered on the ethics of animal research, GMOs, agriculture, resurrecting (non-hominin) extinct species, etc., are outside of the purview of this course.

What you do choose to focus on is up to you—and it is important that you choose to focus on some, specific, topic. We’re covering a range of issues in this course, far too wide a range for you reasonably to write on. So slice off a portion of one of these issues: DON’T TRY TO DO EVERYTHING. For example, Liza Mundy in Everything Conceivable deals with a number of aspects regarding infertility and ART; you could explore one or two of those aspects. Similarly, other readings raise a variety of issues regarding genetic and stem cell research; pick one of those. Finally, I or one of your classmates may bring up an issue or asks a question which grabs you; if so, feel free to center your paper on that issue.

As for those of you who’d like to write on abortion: You can’t write on abortion. You may, however, write a paper centered on hESCs or on preimplantation genetic diagnosis or on prenatal testing or on selective termination.

Pick an issue which matters to you, which interests you, which puzzles or provokes you; pick something which you want to learn more about, and on which you are willing to do additional research.

And you will have to do additional research. The course readings and links at Bioethics articles can help you to get started, but you must go beyond this. You must educate yourself sufficiently to be able to reflect intelligently on the complications of that topic. To that end, you should aim for 10 or more scholarly sources per paper.

Finally, while your two papers will be linked, they are nonetheless distinct. Thus:

Paper 1: In this first paper, examine a particular line of research or a specific practice/technology and lay out exactly what is involved in this research or practice. DO NOT DISCUSS ETHICS IN THIS PAPER

Depending upon the research or practice, you may explore the history of the work; questions under active investigation as well as any questions which are considered crucial to advancement of the work; the current status of the work, including whether it has advanced to animal or human clinical trials, and/or whether it is currently in use in medical or commercial practice; any scientific/medical problems associated with the work; who is using or would use the technology; or, if you are working on, say, surrogacy, the technical-legal aspects of the practice. In short, lay out the scientific, medical, and/or technical elements of the research or practice.

This paper should be largely descriptive and analytical; your personal opinions are not relevant.

Paper 2: This paper builds on the work done in the first paper, with the emphasis this time around on the ethical, legal, social, and/or political implications and controversies surrounding the tech/practice (t/p) discussed in Paper 1.

Exactly what gets covered will depend upon the initial topic. You could choose to focus on the ethical implications of a t/p, or analyze that t/p through one or more of the various ethical approaches. Similarly, you could consider the religious implications of the t/p via a survey of various religious responses, or take a deep dive into a particular religion’s response. Or you consider the social or political implications of the t/p, offering a critical, Marxian, capitalist, post-modern, etc., take on the topic. You could take a sociological or anthropological approach, perhaps comparing the reception or use of the t/p in one society to another, or to how cultures in the past responding to similar t/ps. You could lean into the law and look at legislation proposed or passed in response to the t/p, court cases, or legal questions which have been/are likely to be raised. As with the first paper, I don’t expect you to cover all ELSPI aspects of the t/p: pick a lane, and stick to it.

This paper may include some description, but should be more analytical and, unlike in paper 1, it is not only acceptable but encouraged for you to offer your own well-reasoned and informed take on the tech or practice.