Medical Ethics

Directions: Write an exam in which you construct an argument either in favour of or against one of the statements listed below. A typical answer should be 4 pages, typed double-spaced (but this is not a strict limit, in either direction). 1. Ethical theory does not have a useful role to play in dealing with practical problems in medical ethics. 2. Autonomy is the most important point to consider when thinking about medical ethics. As long as they aren’t hurting anyone else, people should be free to do whatever they want with their own bodies. 3. Personhood, not commodification, is the central issue in medical ethics. How to Approach this Exam Think of the exam as asking you to do two main things: 1. To demonstrate familiarity with the material covered in the course that is relevant to the topic you’ve chosen to discuss. 2. To demonstrate that you’ve considered your topic in sufficient depth to allow you to offer a plausible argument for your position and, in doing so, to defend your position against the basic objections that might be made against it. The first task probably needs little further explanation. As for the second, what I’m looking for here is that you make a serious attempt to argue in favour of the view you’re taking, not just state it as an opinion. Doing this will require considering how someone opposed to your view might argue against you. This doesn’t mean that you should consider every single objection that might be made against your view. That would be impossible. But it does require dealing with the main objections that have come up in the material considered in this course. For example, suppose one of the topics was this: “The central issue in considering the morality of abortion is whether or not the fetus is a person.” An answer that argued in favour of this claim, but didn’t consider the idea that abortion could be morally permissible even if the fetus is a person (as in Thomson’s article) would be missing something important. Also, keep in mind that the point of the assignment isn’t just to state your opinion, but to offer an argument in support of that opinion. If you think, for example, that Thomson is wrong in saying that abortion can be morally OK even if the fetus is a person, then don’t just tell me that you think she’s wrong, try to convince me that she’s wrong by offering an argument against her view. It is important on this assignment to not simply regurgitate the relevant parts of the course notes. Think about the questions as giving you the opportunity to show that you have learned something from the course. With this in mind, it would be wise to think about which of these questions you have the most to say about, before you decide on which one to answer. Try to construct your answer so that it offers you the opportunity to say something substantive about your topic. References: Students often ask whether they need to use outside sources on the exam. The answer is that you do not have to use them. It is quite possible to do write an excellent exam without using any outside sources. Having said that, feel free to use them if you want to. For our purposes, formal references to the course notes do not need to be made unless you are directly quoting from them. However, all use of the course readings (or any outside source) should be formally acknowledged regardless of whether you are directly or indirectly quoting. For some advice on referencing, see Syllabus (under Course Content).

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