Philosophy and Medical Ethics

The details
Colchester Campus
Undergraduate: Level 6
Thursday 08 October 2020
Friday 18 December 2020
16 May 2020


Requisites for this module



Key module for

BA VV56 Philosophy, Religion and Ethics,
BA VV57 Philosophy, Religion and Ethics (Including Placement Year),
BA VV58 Philosophy, Religion and Ethics (Including Foundation Year),
BA VV5P Philosophy, Religion and Ethics (Including Year Abroad),
LLB MV16 Law with Philosophy,
LLB MV18 Law with Philosophy (Including Year Abroad),
LLB MV19 Law with Philosophy (Including Placement Year)

Module description

This module will introduce students to a wide range of philosophical questions that are raised by everyday medical practice and recent developments in biomedical science. It will show how the resources of moral philosophy and philosophy more widely can help us to develop a better understanding of these questions, and enable us to critically assess the ways in which these issues are currently dealt with. The exact range of topics addressed will vary from year to year.

In this academic year, we will explore the following issues: the moral significance of health and the just allocation of medical resource (between patients and on the level of healthcare budgets); the ethics of reproduction (e.g. surrogate mothering and sex selection), and the ethics of enhancement. Finally, this module will familiarise students with Foucault's notion of "biopolitics" and explore its relevance for developing a critical understanding of the wider context in which medical-ethical questions arise.

Module aims

The aims of the module are:

* to learn about why and how theories of justice bear on the issue of health
* to be aware of, and become able to critically reflect on, the ethical issues raised by reproductive medicine
* to become able to identify and critically reflect on the philosophical, ethical and political issues raised by recent advances in life sciences/bioengineering

Module learning outcomes

By the end of the module, students should be able to:

* identify the ethical and philosophical issues raised by a selection of medical matters.
* explain the debates concerning these issues
* critically assess the merits of the conflicting arguments.

Students should also have acquired a set of transferable skills, and in particular be able to:

* define the task in which they are engaged and exclude what is irrelevant;
* seek and organise the most relevant discussions and sources of information;
* process a large volume of diverse and sometimes conflicting arguments;
* compare and evaluate different arguments and assess the limitations of their own position or procedure;
* write and present verbally a succinct and precise account of positions, arguments, and their presuppositions and implications;
* be sensitive to the positions of others and communicate their own views in ways that are accessible to them;
* think 'laterally' and creatively - see interesting connections and possibilities and present these clearly rather than as vague hunches;
* maintain intellectual flexibility and revise their own position if shown wrong;
* think critically and constructively.

Module information

No additional information available.

Learning and teaching methods

There will be a two-hour combined lecture and seminar each week and a separate one-hour class. All teaching events will be accessible to students on and off campus either face-to-face or remotely through online teaching. Week 8 is Reading Week.


  • Lemke, Thomas. (c2011) Biopolitics: an advanced introduction, New York: New York University Press. vol. Biopolitics, medicine, technoscience, and health in the 21st century
  • Foucault, Michel; Bertani, Mauro; Fontana, Alessandro. (2003) Society must be defended: lectures at the Collège de France, 1975-76, New York: Picador.
  • Savulescu, Julian; Bostrom, Nick. (2009) Human enhancement, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Kuhse, Helga; Singer, Peter. (2006) Bioethics: an anthology, Oxford: Blackwell. vol. Blackwell philosophy anthologies
  • Habermas, Jürgen. (2003) The future of human nature, Cambridge: Polity.
  • (2016) Bioethics: an anthology, Malden, MA, USA: John Wiley & Sons Inc. vol. 40
  • Preciado, Paul B. (April 2013) 'Testo Junkie: Sex, Drugs, and Biopolitics', in E-Flux. (44)
  • T. Schramme. (2009) 'On Norman Daniels' Interpretation of the Moral Significance of Healthcare', in Journal of Medical Ethics: BMJ. vol. 35 (1) , pp.17-20
  • Preciado, Paul B. (2013) Testo junkie: sex, drugs, and biopolitics in the pharmacopornographic era, New York, NY: The Feminist Press at the City University of New York.
  • Daniels, Norman. (2008) Just health: meeting health needs fairly, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

The above list is indicative of the essential reading for the course. The library makes provision for all reading list items, with digital provision where possible, and these resources are shared between students. Further reading can be obtained from this module's reading list.

Assessment items, weightings and deadlines

Coursework / exam Description Deadline Weighting
Coursework   Essay plan (700 words)  24/11/2020  25% 
Coursework   Essay (2500 words)  05/01/2021  50% 
Practical   Presentation slides     25% 

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
100% 0%


Coursework Exam
100% 0%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Dr Joerg Schaub, email:
Dr Joerg Schaub



External examiner

Dr Thomas Joseph Stern
University College London
Senior Lecturer
Available via Moodle
Of 1274 hours, 0 (0%) hours available to students:
1274 hours not recorded due to service coverage or fault;
0 hours not recorded due to opt-out by lecturer(s).


Further information

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