Leh 355 Bioethics

Syllabus, S20 [basics]

How this works: While the bulk of class time will be given over to discussion, there is a fair amount of reading, both online and in books, required for the course. It is recommended that you read the material prior to class, so that you can participate fully in the discussions.

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

Recommended: Suzanne Holland, Karen Lebacqz, & Laurie Zoloth, eds., The Human Embryonic Stem Cell Debate

Course requirements:
… Attendance: 14 pts
… Science quiz, February 27: 20 pts
Note: you will be given separate handouts for the paper assignment
… Paper overview, March 5 (required, 0 pts)
… Two papers (8-10 pages EACH): 30 pts ea.
… … Paper 1 outline, due March 19: 3 pts
… … … PAPER 1: due APRIL 2: 30 pts
… … Paper 2 outline, due April 21: 3 pts
… … … PAPER 2, due MAY 14: 30 pts

No extra credit will be available.

Regarding cell phones/tablets/computers: You may use for notes as long as WIFI IS TURNED OFF; please stow cell phones.

Regarding food and drink in the classroom: Something to drink is fine, something to eat is not.

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

Days 1-4 Jan 28-Feb 6 Introduction; Eugenics, genetics, and making ourselves better; Into the cell!
*Lisa Ko, Unwanted Sterilization and Eugenics Programs in the United States
*National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI): Deoxyribonucleic acid | Chromosomes | A brief guide to genomics | Genetic mapping

Days 5-6  Feb 11-13 Genetics, cont.; Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART)
*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 7-9 Feb 18-25 ART; Stem Cells; Cloning
*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)

Day 10 Feb 27 Quiz …………………………………………………… Science quiz

Days 11-14 Mar 3-12 Ethics, or How to think about all this?
*BBC: Consequentialism | deontological 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 Mar 17-19 Assisted reproductive technologies: why?
*Mundy, prologue, chs 1-4; begin chs 5-8
*PCB, Reproduction & Responsibility, ch. 2 §II

Days 17-18 Mar 24-26 ART, 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

Days 19-20, Mar 31-Apr 2, The end(s) of making babies . . . . Paper 1 due
*Mundy, finish chs 9-12; 13-14, Epilogue, Afterword
*Ed Yong, The CRISPR baby scandal gets worse by the day

**April 7: Wednesday schedule, NO CLASS**
**April 8-16: Spring Recess, NO CLASS**

Days 21-23 Apr 21-28 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
*David B. Hart, The Anti-Theology of the Body
*NBAC, Ethical Issues in Human Stem Cell Research, Vol III: Religious Perspectives

Days 24-26 Apr 30-May 7 Stem cells, enhancement
*Parens: Parens, pp. 1-28; Juengst, pp. 29-47; Brock, pp. 48-69; Silver, pp. 95-123; Davis, 124-134

Days 27-28 May 12-14 Enhancement; What’s it all about. . . . . . . Paper 2 due
*Parens: Cole-Turner, pp. 151-161; Little, 162-176; Elliott, 177-188; Winkler, pp. 238-250


Suggested readings:

F19 Quiz guide: 20 will appear on the quiz

1. How many pairs of autosomes and how many pairs of sex chromosomes are contained in a somatic cell of a typical member of Homo sapiens?
2. Name a specific chromosomal abnormality and its associated syndrome.
3. Approximately how many genes may be found in a typical member of Homo sapiens?
4. What is a gene?
5. What are the base pairs of nucleotides in DNA? [spell out the words and put in pairs]
6. What is mapping? [be specific about what is being mapped]
7. What is sequencing? [be specific about what is being sequenced]
8. Name a disease associated with lethal recessive genes.
9. What is a single-locus trait?
10. What is a trait that was thought to be single-locus, but is now known to be complex?
11. What is a single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP)?
12. What is epigenetics?
13. Name a likely-vestigial organ or tissue.
14. Why does pleiotropy complicate gene transfer?
15. Gene transfer in which gametes are affected (i.e., changes passed to offspring) is known as what?
16. Name one type of disease or disorder for which gene transfer has worked as an experimental treatment.
17. What is a cut-and-paste gene transfer method? (the abbreviation/acronym is fine)
18 & 19. What are the ‘five (or so)’ steps involved in ART? [simply name steps]
20. What is the process of preimplantation genetic diagnosis?
21. How does ICSI differ from IVF?
22. Name a prenatal test and one thing it can test for.
23. What are the two/three characteristics unique to all stem cells?
24. What are the three types of stem cells? [spell out the types]
25. What is a significant functional difference between embryonic and adult stem cells?
26. Name one type of adult stem cell.
27. What is one test for pluripotency?
28. What are the three germ layers?
29. Name one current or possible use of ESCs.
30. Name one current or possible use of iPSCs.
31. Name one current or possible use of ASCs.
32. What is the technical name for the reproductive cloning method?
33. Name one technical problem associated with reproductive cloning (state specifically what the problem is).


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.