BF0614 - Bioethics


Hand in hand with scientific and technological advances come new, and often unforeseen, ethical dilemmas and associated issues. For example the initial euphoria surrounding the development of kidney dialysis machines in the 1940s was short-lived due to the ethics of 'selection' which quickly emerged following their introduction: Who should get access to this new and expensive treatment? [and] Who should decide? More contemporary examples include controversial issues surrounding the ethical development and use of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) such as 'Golden Rice'. In addition ongoing 'classical' ethical debates, such as the rights of animals, need to be constantly evaluated along with changing perspectives within society. For example, (how?) can you resolve the conflict between (i) a now widespread recognition that the use of animals to test cosmetics is wrong, and (ii) a new ability and need to develop disease models by manipulation of an animals genome?

This module aims to raise students' awareness of a range of ethical dilemmas and issues that stem from the impact of science and technology on society. The module demonstrates ethics methodologies which can be used to make or defend ethical decisions or recommendations. The module requires no previous knowledge of bioethics.

The module consists of lectures, seminars, tutorials and workshops in addition to independent and directed learning. Students will be assessed by coursework and are required to formatively criticise peers work


Latest Editions of:

§ Beauchamp, T.L. - Contemporary Issues in Bioethics Wadsworth.

§ Beauchamp, T.L., Childress, J.F. Principles of Biomedical Ethics. Oxford University Press.

§ Jecker, N.A.S. et al - Bioethics: An Introduction to the History, Methods and Practice. Jones and Bartlett.

§ Pierce, C., Van de Veer, D. People, penguins, and plastic trees : basic issues in environmental ethics. Wadsworth,

§ Rodd, R. - Biology, Ethics and Animals. Oxford University Press.

Plus primary sources from journals such as

'Bioethics' [Blackwell];
BMC Medical ethics;
International Journal of Ethics;
J. of Agriculture and Environmental Ethics [Kluwer Academic Publishers];
J. of Law, medicine and ethics; etc.


Introduction to Bioethics:

(a) from a scientist's perspective: discussion and exercises associated with the processes underlying arriving at an understanding of the ethical approaches which help in the decision making process

(b) from a philosopher's perspective: history of ethics and philosophy, ethics theory and methods, key concepts, and the use of ethics in resolving dilemmas.

Relevant bioethical topics drawn from:

(1) Ethics and Animal Science: Example topics: transgenics, animal experiments, factory farming.

(2) Medical Ethics: Example topics: human research, abortion, euthanasia.

(3) Environmental Ethics: Example topics: pollution, loss of natural spaces, conflict between employment and conservation.

(4) Food and Nutrition Ethics: Example topics: should anorexics be force fed? Should adverts for fatty/sugary foods [aimed at children] be banned?

(5) Ethics of Forensic Evidence. Example topics: How do professionals gather, interpret and present scientific data as evidence in court and how does this impact on peoples lives?


1. To raise awareness of important ethical issues and dilemmas among students and to generate an understanding of how scientific and technological advances impact on society.

2. To demonstrate how ethical methods can provide a framework for making/ defending ethical decisions/ recommendations.

3. To provide students with an opportunity to critically evaluate different ethical methods which could be used to make/ defend ethical decisions/ recommendations

4. To encourage application of pre-existing scientific/ technical knowledge to ethical dilemmas and issues.

5. To provide an opportunity for team work and peer assessment


The student will be able to:

1. Discuss ethical theories and methods relevant to bioethics (coursework components A - C)

2. Synthesise important ethical questions within a range of areas such as medicine, animals, human nutrition and the environment and provide critical feedback to peers (coursework components A - C)

3. Discuss the application of ethics methodologies to an ethical question (coursework component B - C)

4. Critically evaluate ways in which the application of ethics methodologies does or could help resolve ethical questions (coursework component B- C).


Research Methods, or equivalent, at Level 5, or appropriate pre-course guided reading.






The principal focus in semester 1 will be a mix of traditional lectures and seminars containing in class exercises [such as in class debates and discussions of case studies] providing formative feedback.

Lead lectures with associated directed learning will introduce the key concepts and underpinning knowledge necessary for students to undertake coursework component A, which will be team based.

Tutorials will allow students to access individual formative feedback on draft work in addition to workshops e.g. ICT classes, to address differences in the backgrounds of diverse cohorts, if required.

The principal focus in semester 2 will be on the independent and self-directed study of a student chosen topic.

During tutorials an appointed supervisor will discuss the proposed topic and offer guidance where necessary


The associated assessment will require the student to develop an investigative approach to formulate and understand their topic of interest.

Assessment is by coursework, which is 100% of the module total and will have 2 components A and B [each 50%]



Course info

Credits 20

Level of Study Undergraduate

Mode of Study 36 months

Location Singapore

City Singapore

Start November or April

Fee Information

Module Information

All information on this course page is accurate at the time of viewing.

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