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Essential Objectives

Course Syllabus

Revision Date: 24-Oct-23

Spring 2024 | HUM-2020-VO01 - Bioethics

Online Class

Online courses take place 100% online via Canvas, without required in-person or Zoom meetings.

Location: Online
Credits: 3 (45 hours)
Day/Times: Meets online
Semester Dates: 01-23-2024 to 05-06-2024
Last day to drop without a grade: 02-11-2024 - Refund Policy
Last day to withdraw (W grade): 03-24-2024 - Refund Policy
This course has started, please contact the offering academic center about registration


Amy Beth Kessinger
View Faculty Credentials
View Faculty Statement
Hiring Coordinator for this course: Jennifer Gundy

General Education Requirements

This section meets the following CCV General Education Requirement(s) for the current catalog year:
VSCS Humanistic Perspectives
  1. Many degree programs have specific general education recommendations. In order to avoid taking unnecessary classes, please consult with additional resources like your program evaluation, your academic program catalog year page, and your academic advisor.
  2. Courses may only be used to meet one General Education Requirement.

Course Description

This course explores ethical issues and decision-making processes involved in biomedical research and practice, as viewed from legal, medical, social and philosophical perspectives. Students will apply philosophical frameworks, theoretical approaches, argument development skills, and critical thinking to address moral questions pertaining to the beginning and end of life, biotechnology and genetic experimentation, justice in healthcare, responsibilities of physicians, environmental health and other pertinent subjects.

Essential Objectives

1. Discuss individual, social, cultural, and ethical implications of making decisions on a range of moral issues related to healthcare and biology (including right to life and death, reproductive issues, sexual assignment, cloning, and the role of religion in healthcare), and reflect on varied positions surrounding these.
2. Identify and define key concepts, facts, theories, and perspectives important in clarifying and resolving bioethical concerns including patient choice, confidentiality, informed consent, access to information, and physician/family relationships.
3. Discuss types of criteria which physicians, hospital administrators, government officials, and legal professionals use in making decisions affecting human life and how these affect individuals, families, and various populations.
4. Examine current controversies in biomedical research from political, social, and philosophical perspectives.
5. Explore philosophical and social justice implications of bioethical issues such as allocation of and access to healthcare resources, differential treatment of certain groups, and environmental health; describe their effect on specific populations and propose just solutions.
6. Demonstrate critical reasoning, research, and argumentation skills in analyzing and developing informed positions about significant bioethical controversies.

Required Technology

More information on general computer and internet recommendations is available on the CCV IT Support page. https://support.ccv.edu/general/computer-recommendations/

Please see CCV's Digital Equity Statement (pg. 45) to learn more about CCV's commitment to supporting all students access the technology they need to successfully finish their courses.

Required Textbooks and Resources

This course only uses free Open Educational Resources (OER) and/or library materials. For details, see the Canvas Site for this class.

Evaluation Criteria

Evaluation Criteria (Please note that this is subject to change before the start of the course.)

  • Participation in Weekly Discussion Forums: 25%
  • Weekly Journals: 25%
  • A Midterm Film Analysis Project: 15%
  • Op-Ed Article: 15%
  • Bioethics Learning Module: 20%

Participation in Weekly Discussion Forums (25%): Each week, you will participate in a discussion forum. You will be graded on the quality of your overall engagement, which will include your first posting as well as the required susequent reply posts you make contribute throughout the week.

Weekly Journals (25%): Each week, you will craft and submit a brief written response (about 200 - 300 words) to a specific question I pose related to the reading/viewing homework.

A Midterm Film Analysis Project (15%): You will analyze a full-length feature film using the concepts/language of the course.

Op-Ed Article (15%): You will also write an engaging, brief, and well-supported op-ed article that addresses a specific problem, issue, challenge, or puzzle in the area of bioethics - something you're passionate about!

Bioethics Learning Module (20%): You will research and build an engaging and scholarly "learning module" filled with resources to introduce and orientate the class to your topic. You will create a conversation or activity that invites people to experience this topic in more depth. And finally, you will create a journal assignment that your peers can engage in to further their learning.

Grading Criteria

CCV Letter Grades as outlined in the Evaluation System Policy are assigned according to the following chart:

A Less than 9893
A-Less than 9390
B+Less than 9088
B Less than 8883
B-Less than 8380
C+Less than 8078
C Less than 7873
C-Less than 7370
D+Less than 7068
D Less than 6863
D-Less than 6360
FLess than 60 
NPLess than 600

Weekly Schedule

Week/ModuleTopic  Readings  Assignments


Introductions & An Introduction to Bioethics


What is Bioethics?

Asking Ethical Questions


Forums: Introductions / 3,2,1 Responses to Bioethics

Journals: Letter to Amy Beth & Ethical Questions Quiz



Ethical Theories, Principles of Bioethics & Elements of a Strong Justification


Principles of Bioethics

Four Major Ethical Theories

Elements of a Strong Justification


Forum: Pandemic Flu Dilemma: An Exercise in Resource Allocation

Journal: Framing & The Case of Mrs. Sando



Patient & Provider Autonomy


Video lectures on Patient & Provider Autonomy

Selected readings, videos & websites


Forums: Autonomy & Medical Decisions for Children & The Challenge of Conscientious Refusal

Journal: Explore Your Personal Values in the Context of Provider Autonomy



Death & Surrogate Decision-Making


Video Lectures on Death & Surrogate Decision-Making

Definitions, briefings, playlists, and articles


Forum: Defining Death: A Case Study

Journal: Start a Conversation about Living & Dying



Ethics & the Law: Voluntary Euthanasia


Video lectures on Voluntary Euthanasia

Additional case studies, definitions, briefings, playlists, and articles


Forum: Testing out the Relationship between Ethics and the Law

Journal: Reflect on a “Good Death”



Bioethics at the Beginning: ART & Collaborative Reproduction


Video lectures on ART & Collaborative Reproduction

Articles from Hartness Library


Forum: Two Case Studies

Journal: What Should Acorn Fertility Clinic Do?



Bioethics at the Beginning: Abortion


Video lectures on Abortion

Definitions, briefings, playlists, and articles


Forum: A “Pro-Dialogue” Discussion about Abortion

Journal: Evaluate and Respond to an Editorial



Midterm: Feature Film Analysis


You pick a feature film from a list of approved films


Assignment: Midterm Film Analysis



LGBTQ Bioethics: Considerations of Sexuality and Gender Identity


Current academic articles, an audio show, and an interview.


Forum: To be determined by student interest

Journal: TBD



Topic TBD but may include the Bioethics of Food (and/or Climate Change)


Current news articles, research studies, and ethical forum essays


Forum: Essential Questions: A Student-Driven Discussion

Journal: Climate Change, Bioethics & Feeding the World: A Mapping Activity



Race & Bioethics


A curated list of web resources, academic articles, and case studies

Webinar to be Determined


Forum: Webinar Discussion - Racism, Police Brutality & Black Health

Journal: Op-Ed rough draft



Emerging Global Issues & Trends in Bioethics


Resources to be determined by students


Forum: Travels in Bioethics Activity

Journal: Check in about the Learning Module Project



Bioethics Op-Eds


Resouces will vary according to each student's op-ed topic.


Assignment: Bioethics Op-Eds



Op-Ed Discussions


Your peers' op-eds are the primary reading for the week.


Forum: Discussions on student op-eds

Journal: Check in about the Learning Module Project



Learning Module Projects & Course Synthesis


Your peers' learning modules are the primary reading this week.


Learning Modules are due this week

Forum: Bioethics Symposium (share and discuss your learning modules)


Attendance Policy

Regular attendance and participation in classes are essential for success in and are completion requirements for courses at CCV. A student's failure to meet attendance requirements as specified in course descriptions will normally result in a non-satisfactory grade.

  • In general, missing more than 20% of a course due to absences, lateness or early departures may jeopardize a student's ability to earn a satisfactory final grade.
  • Attending an on-ground or synchronous course means a student appeared in the live classroom for at least a meaningful portion of a given class meeting. Attending an online course means a student posted a discussion forum response, completed a quiz or attempted some other academically required activity. Simply viewing a course item or module does not count as attendance.
  • Meeting the minimum attendance requirement for a course does not mean a student has satisfied the academic requirements for participation, which require students to go above and beyond simply attending a portion of the class. Faculty members will individually determine what constitutes participation in each course they teach and explain in their course descriptions how participation factors into a student's final grade.

Participation Expectations


Discussion forums = class participation.

Discussion forums are a vital and required component of this course because this is where you will apply concepts, practice skills, and build community with your peers.

Forums take place in an “asynchronous” manner; in other words, we all make contributions within a certain time frame but not necessarily at the exact same time.

Full participation requires active and thoughtful engagement in class each week. The following habits are important:

  • Complete all of the week's reading and assignments before the start of the forum.
  • Compose a timely, substantive, and thoughtful initial response to the discussion/activity prompt.
  • Contribute a minimum number of high-quality reply postings that significantly contribute to a positive learning environment.
  • Address and interact with your peers by name (e.g. Dear Sally) and sign off with your own name (the one you want us to use, of course).

Students who regularly participate in discussions perform better on the major weight-bearing assignments associated with that unit.

Missing & Late Work Policy


  • Discussion Forums: Students may not go back and participate in forums that have already closed, as this is akin to participating when everyone has left the room. If a student makes an initial post but contributes no replies, they may receive a grade of 1 out of 5 for the week.
  • Weekly Journals & Major Assignments: Extensions will be granted only in extenuating circumstances. If a lengthy medical problem or other emergent personal issue will result in missing weekly discussions and/or assignments, please let me know in writing as soon as possible
  • I drop the lowest journal grade and I offer extra credit. This feels fair to everyone in the course since it applies equally to all students in the class.
  • Anticipated Absences: Students who know that they will not have course access for any given week should make arrangements with me to complete assignments and some of the participation requirements prior to the absence.

Accessibility Services for Students with Disabilities:

CCV strives to mitigate barriers to course access for students with documented disabilities. To request accommodations, please
  1. Provide disability documentation to the Accessibility Coordinator at your academic center. https://ccv.edu/discover-resources/students-with-disabilities/
  2. Request an appointment to meet with accessibility coordinator to discuss your request and create an accommodation plan.
  3. Once created, students will share the accommodation plan with faculty. Please note, faculty cannot make disability accommodations outside of this process.

Academic Integrity

CCV has a commitment to honesty and excellence in academic work and expects the same from all students. Academic dishonesty, or cheating, can occur whenever you present -as your own work- something that you did not do. You can also be guilty of cheating if you help someone else cheat. Being unaware of what constitutes academic dishonesty (such as knowing what plagiarism is) does not absolve a student of the responsibility to be honest in his/her academic work. Academic dishonesty is taken very seriously and may lead to dismissal from the College.