Philosophy 222: Moral Issues in Medicine 

Instructor: Gary Zabel, Ph.D
Philosophy Department Phone: (617) 287-6530
E-mail Address:
Office Hours: M 2:00-3:00/Wed 2:00-3:00
5th Floor of Wheatley, Room 035


For the past five hundred years, we have lived in a world profoundly shaped by the scientific revolution. Though much of the technology made possible by science applies to non-human nature, modern medicine extends science-based technology to human beings. Since modern medicine acts in the name of advancing human well-being, while at the same time exercising technological power over the human body and mind, it raises ethical problems with which the doctors, nurses, and patients of the past never had to deal. In this course, we will examine the major moral philosophies that have guided the traditional practice of medicine as well as the unique quandries that the new medical technologies raise. We will try to determine whether these quandries exceed the resources of the moral theories of the past, and demand instead the development of fundamentally new approaches to moral philosophy. Among such quandries are those raised by reproductive and genetic technologies, the transformed experience of death and dying, and the use of human subjects in medical experimentation. Through readings, lectures, student presentations, and class discussions, we will grapple with each of these themes.


1)     Take-home exam
     10 to 15 page paper
3)     A class presentation based on the readings
4)     Regular class attendance and participation

Grading: The exam constitutes 25% of your final grade, the paper 60%, and class attendance and participation 15%.

Readings: All readings are on this website and can be accessed through the links below. You will need Adobe Reader in order to read the PDF files. If you don't already have it, you can get it free at:

Take Home Exam

Final Paper Assignment


1. Morals and Medicine

Consequentialism - Intenet Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Deontological Ethics - New World Encyclopedia

Virtue Ethics - Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Well Being

Hippocratic Oath

AMA Principles of Medical Ethica

Nursing Code of Ethics

Virtue and the Practice of Medicine

2.  Reproduction and Genetic Technology

Roe v. Wade


Ethics and Assisted Reproduction

Ethical Issues Arising from Assisted Reproduction Technologies

Sex Selection

Newborn Screening

Ethics of Stem Cell Research

President Discusses Stem Cell Research

Cloning Human Beings

Statement on Cloning

Genetic Enhancement of Memory

3. Death, Dying, and Assisted Suicide

Definition of Death

Meanings of Death

Euthanasia and Physician Assisted Suicide (Read "Introduction" and "Further Information")

Voluntary Euthanasia

Oregon's Death With Dignity Law

Death Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide

Manual of Hospice Care

Anti-Euthanasia, Pro-Pain Control

Terry Shiavo Case

Karen Ann Quinlan

Jack Kevorkian

4. Experimentation With Human Subjects

The Ethics of Human Experiments

Tuskegee Study

Human Radiation Experiments

The Nuremberg Doctors' Trial

The Origins of Informed Consent

YouTube - Human Experimentation for National Security Purposes

5. Medicine and Power

The Epidemics of Modern Medicine

The Medicalization of Life

Cultural Iatrogenesis

The Killing of Pain

The Invention and Elimination of Disesase

Death Against Death

Specific Counterproductivity

Political Countermeasures

The Recovery of Health

Introduction to Biopower