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2018/19 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

IDEA3307 Current Developments in Health Care Ethics

30 creditsClass Size: 30

Module manager: Professor Chris Megone

Taught: Semester 1 View Timetable

Year running 2018/19

Module replaces


This module is not approved as a discovery module


Modern medicine is now a scientific discipline, and allied to advances in biotechnologies, is often presented as on the threshold of spectacular discoveries. These discoveries appear to open up a range of new possibilities. Some seem wholly welcome, such as cures for cancers, Parkinson’s disease and other serious conditions. Others are more controversial. These include the cloning of humans, the provision of animal farms providing spare parts to replace diseased human organs, and genetic enhancement treatments to improve on human nature.

This module will include study of some of the underlying ethical issues that these new advances create. If medical treatments ought to be evidence-based then new treatments need to be tried and tested. What controls on testing are needed to protect those tested, whether animals or humans, from exploitation? And what about other issues raised by the possibilities arising from the new advances, issues around organ transplantation, or surrogacy, or the treatment of disability?

We will consider some of the issues themselves and the role of ethics committees in policing new research and new developments. How should responsibility to the individual patient be weighed against the collective public interest in advancing medical knowledge? Do doctors and scientists involved in trials face a conflict of interest? If so, how effective are ethics committees in safeguarding patients or research subjects from abuse? Is the old Hippocratic emphasis on pursuing the best interests of the individual patient out of date? When is altruism of the volunteer research subject (or organ donor) suspect? Are desperate patients competent to consent?

On completion of this module, students should be able to:

Critically evaluate ethical concerns relating to innovative/pioneering treatments; Identify ethical issues relating to clinical trials on animals and on people; Understand the history behind the emergence of research ethics committees; Understand the role of these committees and evaluate their effectiveness; Understand the ethical issues relating to future possibilities - especially in the field of genetics and reproductive technologies (e.g. cloning and stem-cell research); Understand the need for medical education to not compromise patients' rights.


Topics such as:
Innovative and experimental treatments; research on animals - the 3Rs; research on people - the codes and the implications for research on desperate patients, on the mentally ill or retarded and on babies and children; training and education needs of medical students and the implications for patients' rights - why consent may fail to protect these.

Teaching methods

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Group Project72.0014.00
Private study hours272.00
Total Contact hours28.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)300.00

Private study

Detailed study of required readings plus advance preparation of discussion questions for seminars. Independent reading and research for the preparation of assessed essay(s). Reading and independent group work for the preparation of group presentation.

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

1 x class based assignment and 1 x written assignment

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Oral PresentationGroup presentation plus brief written report40.00
Essay3,000 word essay60.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)100.00

Normally resits will be assessed by the same methodology as the first attempt, unless otherwise stated

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 12/12/2018 16:33:09


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