KIE graduate fellow Colin Hickey’s Spring 2015 “Phil-110: Debates in Bioethics” class blends the curricular and the extra-curricular, with case-based learning and an opportunity for select students to compete on Georgetown’s national-champion debate team.
This course is designed around contemporary case studies in bioethics in preparation for the 2015 National Bioethics Bowl debate competition. Hickey is a former coach of Georgetown’s award-winning debate team, which most recently claimed second place at the 2014 competition.
Past debate topics have included reproductive technology and surrogacy, treatment refusal, drug testing and research, epidemics, euthanasia, patent law, human enhancement, medical privacy, and disability ethics.
In class, students will be presented with cases that raise moral issues in medicine, research, and health policy, and will learn and practice methods for identifying ethically relevant features of cases, diagnosing moral problems, evaluating behavior and outcomes, and generating creative policy proposals.
“I’m excited to see the tangible progress from first day to final case presentations,” says Hickey. “The iterated process of building a … case and the peer review and discussion really makes visible at the end of it all how far the students have come, which is sometimes harder to track in standard courses.”
“I’m also eager to get to do more one-on-one mentoring that the smaller class size will allow,” he adds.
Class assignments will give students the experience of shifting between and seamlessly integrating the study of high theory with case-specific application: writing and presenting 1600-1800 word responses to bioethical questions on three cases, as if for competition, which will be workshopped from outline to final draft through a series of peer commentary, mock presentations, and debates throughout the semester.
“One unique feature of the class is how collaborative it will be,” explains Hickey. “We’ll build cases and arguments dialogically… The process of moral reasoning will be public.”
Since the course blends curricular and extra-curricular elements, it offers a fourth credit option for students interested in being part of the competition team (of seven selected from a pool of the class and former competitors). The team will travel to Florida State to compete April 10-12th, 2015.
Students will “get out of the class a set of virtues for engaging in moral reasoning and argumentation publicly around contemporary and controversial issues,” Hickey says. “That will require understanding a number of moral terms, concepts, and historical arguments/analyses, as well as a set of critical thinking tools and argumentative strategies. But perhaps most importantly, it will require cultivating attitudes of respect, sincerity, and curiosity, an openness to revising one’s commitments in light of argument, a sensitivity to context and perspective, and the like.”
“Also,” he adds, “there’s a trophy at the end to communally rally around, which has never happened in any other class I’ve taught!”
From the Registrar:
Phil – 110: Ethics: Debates in Bioethics
Course Description – Hickey
This course is designed around contemporary case studies in bioethics. Students will be presented with cases that raise moral issues in medicine, research, and health policy. They will learn and practice methods for identifying ethically relevant features of scenarios in the cases, diagnosing moral problems, evaluating behavior and outcomes, and generating creative policy proposals. We will draw from multiple and conflicting normative frameworks to illuminate key ethical concepts such as harm, beneficence, autonomy, consent, rights, respect, and exploitation. Students will write and present 1600-1800 word responses to bioethical questions on three cases. These writing assignments will be workshopped through peer commentary, mock presentations, and debates.
The course will offer a novel 4th credit opportunity. Select students will be able to compete on Georgetown’s team at the 2015 National Bioethics Bowl (from which the cases will be sourced). For more information about the Bioethics Bowl see http://guethicsteams.weebly.com/. For additional inquiries contact the instructor.