Leh 355 Bioethics

Syllabus, F18 [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, October 4: 20 pts
…Two papers (8-10 pages EACH): 33 pts ea.
… …Note: you will be given a separate handout for the paper assignment.
… … …Paper 1, due November 6
… … …Paper 2, due December 11
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 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 Aug 28-Sept 6 Introduction; Eugenics, genetics, and making ourselves better; Into the cell!
*National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI): Deoxyribonucleic acid | Chromosomes | A brief guide to genomics | A brief history of the human genome project | Genetic mapping

Days 5-6  Sept 13-20 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
*Heidi Ledford, CRISPR, the disruptor
*National Academies, Human Genome Editing report highlights

** No class Tuesday, Sept 11 or 18: High Holidays**

Days 7-9 Sept 25-Oct 2 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

Day 10 Oct 4  Science quiz

Days 11-14 Oct 9-18 Ethics, or How to think about all this?
*BBC: Consequentialism | deontological ethics | virtue ethics
*Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Natural law (§§ 1.2-.3)
*Thomas R. McCormick, Principles of Bioethics
*Belmont Report
*Encyclopedia Britannica, Casuistry
*Huxley: Begin (continue through end of semester)

Days 15-16 Oct 23-25 Assisted reproductive technologies: why?
*Mundy, prologue, chs. 1-4; begin chs. 5-8
*PCB, Reproduction & Responsibility, ch. 2 §II

Days 17-18 Oct 30-Nov 1 ART, variations and complications
*Mundy, 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 Nov 6-8 ART; Stem cells, regulations, ethics . . . . Paper 1 due
*Mundy, finish chs 9-12; 13-14, epilogue
*PCB, Monitoring Stem Cell Research, chs. 2-3
*NIH Guidelines on Human Stem Cell Research

Days 21-23 Nov 13-20 Stem cells, ethics, religion
*New England Journal of Medicine, Embryo Ethics
*Witherspoon Institute, Ethical Considerations Regarding Stem Cell Research
*Bernard Lo & Lindsay Parham, Ethical Issues in Stem Cell Research

***No class Thursday, November 22: Thanksgiving***

Days 24-25 Nov 27-29 Stem cells, enhancement
*David B. Hart, The Anti-Theology of the Body
*NBAC, Ethical Issues in Human Stem Cell Research, Vol III: Religious Perspectives
*Parens: Parens, pp. 1-28; Juengst, pp. 29-47; Brock, pp. 48-69

Days 26-27 Dec 4-6 Enhancement
*Parens: Silver, pp. 95-123; Davis, 124-134; Cole-Turner, pp. 151-161; Little, 162-176

Day 28 Dec 11 Enhancement; What’s it all about
*Parens: Elliott, 177-188; Winkler, pp. 238-250
Paper 2 due


Suggested readings:


Quiz guide: 20 will appear on the quiz

1. How many chromosomes total are contained in a somatic cell of a typical member of Homo sapiens?
2. Which types of cells are diploid and which types of cells are haploid?
3. List a chromosomal abnormality and its associated syndrome.
4. Approximately how many genes may be found in a typical member of Homo sapiens?
5. What is a gene?
6. What is an allele?
7. What are the base pairs of nucleotides in DNA? [spell out the words and put in pairs]
8. What is mapping? [be specific]
9. What is sequencing? [be specific]
10. Name a disease associated with lethal recessive genes.
11. Name a trait associated with non-lethal recessive genes.
12. Name a disease associated with lethal dominant genes.
13. Name a trait associated with non-lethal dominant genes.
14. What distinguishes Mendelian traits from complex or multifactorial ones?
15. What is epigenetics?
16. Name a likely-vestigial organ or body part.
17. Gene transfer in which gametes are affected (i.e., changes passed to offspring) is known as what?
18. Name one type of disease or disorder for which gene transfer has worked as a treatment.
19. What is the new and efficient cut-and-paste gene transfer method?
20 & 21. What are the ‘five (or so)’ steps involved in ART? [simply name steps]
22. For what kinds of disorders or traits is premimplantation genetic diagnosis & screening reliable?
23. For what kinds of disorders is preimplantation genetic diagnosis & screening NOT reliable?
24. What is the process of in vitro fertilization?
25. What is the process of ICSI?
26. What are the two/three characteristics unique to all stem cells?
27. What are the three types of stem cells? [spell out the types]
28. What is a significant functional difference between embryonic and adult stem cells?
29. What is one test for pluripotency?
30. What are the three germ layers?
31. Name one technical problem associated with the research or use of ESCs.
32. Name one technical problem associated with the research or use of iPSCs.
33. Name one technical problem associated with the research or use of ASCs.
34. Name one difficulty to be overcome in 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 at this site. See also Bioethics articles, Bioethics laws & regs, and Bioethics sites & docs for help in picking and further resources on your topic.)

Each paper should typed, double-spaced, 8-10 pages of body copy (plus references & notes), and include both a list of references and either foot- or end-notes. Any requests for extensions must be made by e-mail before the due date.

As to the general substance of the papers themselves:
Given that this is a course on the ethics and politics of human embryonic stem cell (hESC) research, genetics, and assisted reproductive technologies (ART), your papers, unsurprisingly, should explore some aspect of the course material. What, exactly, you 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 regarding hESC and ART research and practice, far too wide a range for you reasonably to write on. Thus, slice off a portion of one of these issues: DON’T TRY TO DO EVERYTHING. For example, a number of chapters in Liza Mundy’s Everything Conceivable deal with a specific aspect of infertility and ART; you could explore in further detail a topic raised in one of those chapters. Similarly, different chapters from various required or recommended readings raise a variety of issues regarding hESC research in particular and the purpose of biotechnology in general. Finally, I or one of your classmates may bring up an issue or asks a question which grabs you; feel free to grab it and center your paper on that issue.

As for those of you who’d like to write on abortion: You can’t write on abortion, as it would take you too far out of the purview of the course. You may, however, write a paper centered on the status of the embryo, 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.

Yes, you will have to do additional research. The course readings can help you to get started, but it its expected that you will explore your topic in greater depth. This means research of materials beyond the syllabus. Again, it’s not that you have to read everything that’s available on your specific issue, but you should make an effort to educate yourself sufficiently to be able to reflect intelligently on the complications of that topic.

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 (including any seminal discoveries initially or in the course of investigation); 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 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.

Paper 2: This paper builds on the work done in the first paper, with the emphasis this time around on the social, ethical, legal, and/or political implications and controversies surrounding the work.

Exactly what gets covered will depend upon the initial topic. For example, a great deal of work has gone into considerations of policy concerning hESC research, along with explorations of the moral implications of both the research itself as well as its possible uses. On the other hand, ART has for the most part not been regulated, and there has been less organized effort to examine either the various technologies or the implications of those uses. Thus, someone writing on, say, ICSI may end up focusing on a different set of social and moral issues than a person writing on, say, the medical and social implications of regenerative medicine developed out of stem cell research.

Again, the social and ethical implications of a practice may be far too large to encompass in this paper; thus, concentrate on that portion of the debate which most intrigues you.