Philosophy 3100 Ethics and Health Care/Medical Ethics

Summer III 2014 
Online by Blazeview (note that this is the new Blazeview using Desire 2 Learn, which is accessed through the University homepage, and clicking on MyVSU at the top, logging in, then choosing  Blazeview.

If you need help, email me or call me using the information below:

Dr. Christine James 
Office: 102 Georgia Avenue, Valdosta State University
Office Telephone: 229-259-7609

Home Telephone: 229-253-9265

Mailbox: Philosophy Department Office, Valdosta State University
Fax: 229-259-5011
E-mail address:
Once class begins you should actually use the Email feature within the class Blazeview area to contact me.

Our textbook is: 

Albert R. Jonsen, Mark Siegler (Contributor), William J. Winslade; Clinical Ethics: A Practical Approach to Ethical Decisions in Clinical Medicine, NY: McGraw Hill Text; Please try to find the newest (7th edition) or at least the 6th edition if you have to buy it used.

ISBN-10: 0071634142

ISBN-13: 978-0071634144

It usually costs between $30-$40 and it is available on Kindle and at the VSU bookstore.

This textbook has had many editions, and I don’t mind if you use a different edition. Be aware that you will have to search for different page numbers than the most recent edition in this case, and you will have to rely on the table of contents and section headings to find the right things to read. Also, the book does have a less expensive Kindle edition. If you like Kindle, that’s fine, but be sure to cite your direct quotes in all Discussions, Papers, and Quizzes (Exams) using the Kindle “location” numbers (students with books will be using page numbers for citation in all course work.) I also have the book on Kindle, so don’t worry about using location numbers, I will know what you mean.

Purpose and goals of the course: This course will provide a chance to analyze the social and political analysis of the medical community, with special emphasis on the principles used in ethical decision making. We will address traditional medical ethics perspectives, and consider how the special role of nursing has challenged the status quo. Students will develop an understanding of medical ethics as it relates to the history of ethical theory, and we will use a variety of case studies from the text and the internet.

A Special Note: Because the course is on Medical Ethics, you may notice that the textbook has some specific medical terms in it. For example, a "bone marrow transplant" may be mentioned in the book. After mentioning it once, the book may then refer to it as a BMT, and the book may not go into detail on what that means. Please feel free to use the internet to look up new terms. The ethical theory involved is the most important thing, so don't worry if you don't have a lot of medical background. But, when there is a term you don't know, you should feel comfortable looking it up online. Finding out about something new may be the start of a great discussion post you can share with the class in the Discussion tool! 

Learning Outcomes: 

In accordance with the revised learning outcomes for the Core Curriculum of the Georgia State System, and the VSU Core Curriculum, our course follows the Area C Learning Outcome:

"Students will analyze, evaluate, and interpret diverse forms of human communication."

Philosophy courses at Valdosta State University contribute to the VSU General Education Outcomes listed at the link below, with special emphasis on numbers 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, and 8.

The Learning Outcomes for our PHIL 3100 are:

1. To evaluate the distinctions among the various philosophical approaches to health care and ethics, including the historical nature of health care ethics as an academic field.

2. To analyze how philosophical inquiry applies to ‘real-world’ circumstances and to specific case studies in medical ethics literature, and to understand the ethical theory models and how to apply each to real world policy issues.

3. To become conversant with understand the historical and structural context of medical ethics, as well as specific examples of the issues of race, class and gender as they influenced health care.

4. To recognize and define different world views, adopting a reasonably viable one and justifying it in a philosophically informed way that emphasizes critical reasoning and argument.

5. To demonstrate the ability to analyze, in both oral and written discourse, selected medical ethics issues within an appropriate ethical framework and offer alternative resolutions to the problem.

6. To synthesize defensible conclusions of whether health care professionals are applying ethics in the design of policies and programs.

7. To be familiar with what academic philosophy is, and to understand how it can be applied to daily life as well as specific careers.

Members of the faculty in Philosophy and Religious Studies have verified that these outcomes are in line with the outcomes of the course as it is taught at peer institutions in the State System of Georgia.
These course-specific learning outcomes contribute to the departmental learning outcomes of the Philosophy and Religious Studies Major by enabling students better to
1. To encourage an understanding of central issues, topics and philosophers in the history of philosophy, from the ancient to the modern periods.
2. To develop students’ abilities to think, write, and speak critically and logically.
3. To enable students to challenge their own ideas and to develop self-understanding in the context of a diverse range of ideas which inform contemporary controversies and social conflict.
4. To enable students to engage in independent philosophical research, and to be responsible for communicating their understanding of the issues researched and developed, including a working familiarity with current research methods. 
5. To incorporate philosophical positions in oral and written communications.
6. To critically outline and analyze a philosophical question.

Course content: This course provides an introduction to the ethical principles and decision making process relevant to the practice of health care. We will use a method combining specific cases from the medical ethics literature with the history of ethical principles from the philosophical literature.

Requirements: Class participation and contact, two written examinations, and one paper.
How grades will be calculated:
A = 100 - 90%
B = 89 - 80%
C = 79 - 70%
D = 69 - 60%
F = 59 - 0% 

Class participation, contact, Discussion = 40%
1 First Exam at 20% = 20%
1 Paper at 20% = 20%
1 Final Exam at 20% = 20% 
Total = 100%
*****Please note that I am not obligated to accept late work or to allow work to be turned in after the date given.*****

Participation Policy: Because this class is an internet-based class, your participation in the class will be evaluated through your contact with each other as a using a variety of internet resources, including the Blazeview Discussion tool and websites as well as posting related to the class text. You should take part in the internet discussions on a regular basis to receive full credit. In general, you should plan to take part in Discussion every day. Most of the time, you should answer the Discussion topic with an independent first response, and with responses to your fellow students to get a back-and-forth debate going. In general, it would be good to make your own first response to the discussion question you see for a particular date and pages in the book, then go back in and reply to two other students.

Access Statement: Valdosta State University is committed to providing inclusive learning environments for all students. However, students with disabilities may not always experience equal access to all learning objectives or assessments.  If students anticipate or experience any learning barriers, they should notify the instructor as well as contact the Access Office to determine appropriate ways to eliminate barriers. The Access Office is located in Farber Hall and can be reached by calling 229-245-2498 (voice), 229-375-5871 (videophone), 229-219-1348 (tty) or 229-245-3788 (fax). You can also visit the website at or email for more information. 


Weekly Readings and Topics for Discussion

6/9-6/11 On these dates, make sure you have bought the textbook, and try to log in to the class. Be sure to get the textbook as soon as possible, in a one-month class having the book from the beginning is so important! As soon as you log in, be sure that you have done all of the following: post your first Discussion message introducing yourself to the class (Discussions are under Communication), take the first introductory Quiz tool (which is just a short set of getting to know you questions under Assessments), and post your first practice Dropbox item (which is where you upload a short .doc .docx or .rtf saying who you are, to show you know how the Dropbox works, it is also under Assessments). Also, you should be reading pages 1-12 in the class textbook and posting in the discussion areas on these pages. I have also uploaded a pdf of the first readings in case you are having trouble getting the book.

6/11 First Official Class Day of Summer III
June 11 is the official first day of the class, and everyone should have logged in to the class by the end of the day today. As soon as you log in, be sure to do all of the following: post your first Discussion messages, complete the short first Quiz, and post your first practice Dropbox. Also, you should be reading pages 1-12 in the class textbook and posting in the discussion areas on these pages. Note that if you are struggling to get the textbook on time, I have a pdf scan of the first few pages linked on the course homepage, but you really do need to buy the book.

6/11 - 6/13 Clinical Ethics, Introduction pp 1-12, post in Discussions
This is the first part of the book you have to read, and the first Discussion work you have to do in class. Please try to do your posting on the Introduction and pages 1-12 of the book as soon as you can, June 13 at the latest! In general, each set of pages you see here in the Syllabus and in the Calendar has a Discussion topic you must do - click on the blue thumbtack shape at the left list of course tools, it is usually the fifth one down. Note there is also a scan of the first few pages on the Home Page of the course. Go to the Home Page by clicking on the little house shape at the top left side of the course tools list. This Discussion on the first few pages of the book has a target due date of 6/14 at 11:59pm, and will lock after that time.

6/13 Registration and Drop-Add end at 1:30pm on this date. 

6/14 - 6/16 Clinical Ethics, Chapter 1, pp 13-46, Interventions, Refusal of Treatment, Death, post in Discussions. All the introductory things (Intro Discussion, Quiz, Dropbox) should have been turned in before 6/13 at 11:59pm. Remember that this is a Friday, and Blazeview often goes down on Friday nights for maintenance. Work ahead for these items, so that you show you are in the class and working before the Drop-Add date of 6/13.

6/16 – 6/18 Exam 1 will be in the Quizzes this week and must be completed by 6/18 by 11:59pm. Remember Quizzes in online classes are timed, so you have 2 hours to complete the exam once you click on it. Save you answers often. Please try to complete Exam 1 during this date. I will make the Exam available until this date at midnight, but remember your 2 hour window of time to do it. That means you should ideally click on the Exam before 10pm. During these dates, also read Clinical Ethics, Chapter 2, pp 51-82, Informed Consent, Capacity, Diversity, Truth, Advance Planning and post in Discussions

6/18 Exam 1 must be completed by midnight, in the Quizzes under Assessments (11:59pm)

6/19 Discussion on AMA Code of Ethics due, will close and lock at 11:59pm.

Please note that June 20 is the official midterm date of Summer Session III. (Midterm dates at VSU do not always refer to a midterm exam, instead, it may be important for you to know the midterm date in relation to Withdrawal from courses. This is the case in our class. Note the difference between a W and a WF. If you consider withdrawing from a class after the W dates are over, you should really just stay in the class because you will surely do better than a WF.)

6/19 - 6/21 Read Clinical Ethics chapter 2, 83-108; Mentally Incapacitated Patients, Limits of Patient Preferences, post in Discussions

6/21 Discussion on Advanced Planning and DNAR orders due by 11:59pm.

6/22 - 6/24 Paper 1 will be assigned this week, and must be turned in by Dropbox as a Word .doc, .docx, or .rtf attachment by 6/24 at 11:59pm. Read CE chapter 3, pp 109-158; Quality of Life, Euthanasia, Physician Assisted Suicide and post in Discussions

6/23 Discussion on Advanced Planning, Minors and Consent due by 11:59pm

6/25 Discussion on Doctor Who Experienced a Stroke is due by 11:59pm

6/25 - 6/27 Read Clinical Ethics chapter 4, pp 159-221, Economics and Allocation, Health Care Management Issues and post in Discussions

6/27 Final Exam assigned and open in Quizzes under Assessments, must be completed by July 2 at 11:59pm. Similar to the Exam 1.

6/28 Discussion on Oregon’s Death With Dignity Act due by 11:59pm

7/1 Discussion on Public Health and Health Care Industries due by 11:59pm

7/2 Last regular class date for Summer Session III.

(You can turn the final in through the Quizzes in any time before 11:59pm on this date by the Quizzes tool, it is a paragraph style short answer exam, similar to Exam 1.) I hope to have your grades entered by the end of the day 7/4, so it really helps if you have all your work in on time on the 7/2 date. Good luck and best wishes!


Discussion Advice

In the online environment the Discussions area acts as the classroom. It's where you'll meet the other students, engage in discussion, ask questions and post work. Your participation grades will be based on your posts to Discussions, and the participation and Discussions are one of the largest parts of your grade in the course. Every course takes some time to ramp up. That is, to get the discussion going. The first week some students have difficulty getting on. Then everyone has to get acclimatized to the surroundings and catch up... Then everyone has to get used to checking in on a regular basis... Then, everyone has to be focused on the discussion. It takes a lot but it will happen and you'll get a lot out of it. 

So don't become passive, waiting for others to chime in. If nothing's happening, post more! You'll make it easier for other students to join in. Online instructors will use these guidelines to grade your participation and the content, timeliness, support and use of language of your posts: 


Content of Post 


Support, backing up your claims

Use of Language

Use of Text, Citations, Research

Discussion Grades and What They Mean:
A Provides comments regularly. Interacts with a variety of participants. Reveals solid understanding of topic as evidenced by original and thoughtful posts, responses and questions. Has considered the arguments deeply. Posting meets deadline Comments well supported Complete sentences, well organized, grammatically correct and free of spelling errors. 

B Provides comments in a regular manner. Reveals adequate understanding of topic. Has considered the arguments well. Posting meets deadline Comments mostly well supported. Complete sentences, well organized, but some grammar and/or spelling errors. 

C Provides comments in a regular manner. Reveals adequate understanding of topic. Has considered the arguments. Posting meets deadline Comments mostly well supported. Complete sentences, but argument isn't coherent. Has three or more grammar and/or spelling errors per paragraph. 

D Sporadically provides comments. Interacts with only one or two participants. Reveals a restricted understanding of the topic limited to information that could be derived from online material and prior posts. Posting fails to meet deadline Comments somewhat well supported Poor sentence structure, inadequate organization, several grammar and/or spelling errors. 

F Provides minimal comments and information to other participants. Reveals a lack of understanding of the topic. Posting fails to meet deadline Comments not very well supported Poor sentence structure, confusing organization, many grammar and/or spelling errors. 

A few more pointers: Length does not equal quality. It depends on what's in there. A high number of posts does not mean you're doing high quality work. Formatting makes a difference. Preview your messages to make sure they don't come out as giant paragraphs. Use subheadings to help you organize your thoughts. 

In general, you want every post you make (in the questions on the readings pages) to be detailed. Cite specific information from the readings and use quotes. Also, remember that your grade includes 1) your own first post in response to the questions, 2) how you debate with other students and keep the conversation going, especially by replying to other students in class (that's why you should do some messages every day even if you don't see a new question yet, and 3) how many of the other students' posts you opened and read. Blazeview keeps track of how many of your fellow students' posts you actually read and I can see those numbers, so if you only open and read 5 other people's posts on a topic, but someone else was reading all 200 in the topic and replied to 20 other students, they would probably get the higher grade compared to you as long as those posts were substantive and well detailed and well written.

Tips on Philosophy Courses

Tips for doing well in Philosophy classes, adapted from a handout by Robert Scott:

1. People might assume that Philosophy is just opinions, it’s actually not. It’s about knowing specific principles, concepts, key terms, and ideas that are in the classic texts of philosophy. Citing the reading is important, and you should aim to cite the readings in all your work, including Discussions, Quizzes (Exams), and Papers (Dropbox). Think of it as a class in the history of ideas, and your responsibility is to show you know where ideas come from in the text.

2. Read text with a pencil, underline the important ideas and key concepts. Write down technical ideas, key terms, key distinctions between two terms, definitions, diagrams, etc. to help you remember them.

3. Write questions or reactions you have to the text in the margin of the book. Ask about these questions in class, and keep them in mind, since they may provide good points to make about that author in papers you will write for class.

4. Read ahead to see the ultimate objectives of the chapter and of the individual readings. Keep in mind the overall picture of the chapters given in the introductory sections to each chapter in the book.

5. Work with the new terminology frequently, and try to apply it to situations outside of class. I would recommend flash cards to help you memorize the meanings of new terms quickly.

6. For longer readings, be sure to review the reading as a whole after you have read it section-by-section. What was the main question the author wanted to address? What were the answers? What concepts were used to make the points?

7. When confronted with a difficult reading or question, break it down into parts, and into individual ideas. This will at least help to clarify the question, even if it might not give the answer. And for philosophy, clarifying the question is really half the battle!

8. Ponder an unsolved problem and return to it every so often to see if it will give. Inspiration may happen at an unexpected time, and the subconscious mind does work on problems even when we aren't consciously aware of it.

9. Begin work on all the class tasks early, and spread out your work over time so as to maximize your chances for comprehending the readings accurately, memorizing the information, and grappling with the questions for papers.

10. If you do need to meet with an instructor outside of class, be sure to have your questions for the instructor planned out ahead of time, to make the meeting as productive as possible.

11. Always think about the philosophical issues for yourself, rather than waiting to be told what to think or believe.

12. Study for all exams on a daily basis, for at least a week before the exam date. You will need to know who said what, from memory.

13. Try to anticipate the questions that will be asked on an examination beforehand. Questions may come from the readings or from lectures and class discussions, but in either case, certain terms and concepts will be emphasized more than others.

14. Listen carefully to different points of view, and actively respond (when you read, when you are in class, and when you write your philosophy papers)!

15. Philosophy involves skills, like learning to appreciate a good debate, learning to imagine the world differently than we assume it to be, and appreciating the world with a sense of wonder.

Section Instructor: Christine James

Outside of the course E-mail :