Our six-week Introduction to Bioethics MOOC kicks off this April 15. For the third year in a row we will to tackle some of the most difficult moral challenges we face in health, medicine, and emerging technologies with a global classroom of thousands of participants from around the world.
This year, we’ll be offering an updated version of the course, live on the edX platform and complete with discussion boards, quizzes, and a global class of peers. Finishing the live course earns you a certificate of completion and opens you up to a global network of bioethics peers.
Here’s a quick rundown of our lineup of world-class instructors and the subjects they’ll be exploring with you throughout the course:
Patient Autonomy: Tom co-authored the world’s leading textbook on the subject, and helped to write the famous Belmont Report of 1979 that set out the first official set of U.S. guidelines for research that involved human participants. In this unit, we will cover topics like autonomy and medical paternalism, informed consent, physician truth telling, rights to refuse life-saving care, and parental rights regarding medical decisions about their children.
Provider Autonomy: Karen is a professor of philosophy at Georgetown with a particular interest in this topic. In this unit, she’ll cover real-world cases (like pharmacists refusing to fill a client’s prescription for contraception) and explore what factors we should look at to determine whether instances were justifiable examples of conscientious refusal.
Collaborative Reproduction: Karen’s second topic will explore some of the central moral questions that have arisen with the growth in ART and collaborative reproduction. We’ll try and explain how new technologies and arrangements have forced us to reexamine the very idea of parenthood. We’ll then consider whether people have a right to collaborative reproduction — and what such a right might mean.
Disability: Rebecca is a philosophy professor and senior research scholar at the Kennedy Institute of Ethics. In this section, she will give us a quick introduction into where and why disability shows up in bioethics — and why it’s such an important topic. We’ll then learn about models of approaching disability, and what these models mean ethically when considered in the frame of reproduction.
Global Issues in Bioethics: In her second topic, Rebecca will show us what happens when patients seeking medical care, and researchers seeking to conduct clinical trials, travel to developing nations to achieve their goals. We’ll also take a closer look at one of the core ethical concepts that comes up in discussions of globalization: the concept of exploitation.
Enhancement: Institute Director Maggie Little will lead this section on how the prospect of enhancement fits within the aims of medicine, and how it shows up in the context of sports. We’ll then turn to more radical enhancements. What would it mean to radically change human capabilities? And how should we think of the prospect of permanently altering the human genome itself?
Abortion: Maggie will also be our faculty lead for the content videos of this unit. She’ll introduce key concepts, and explore both restrictive and permissive views of abortion. In both cases, we’ll be working to understand the theory that underlies them, so that we can all think more deeply about the issue — and better appreciate those who hold views different from our own.
Death & Surrogate Decision Making: Our guide through this topic will be Robert (“Bob”) Veatch, professor emeritus of medical ethics at the Institute. Bob is a national expert on the topic — in fact, as you’ll hear from him, he was present for several landmark court decisions that have shaped U.S. policy on this topic. Bob will introduce us to the key disagreements medical professionals often have when confronted with a dying patient no longer able to speak for herself. We’ll then go on to explore the important role of surrogate decision-makers in choosing to end or prolong life, and whether doctors can overrule a surrogate’s decision to keep a patient alive.
Euthanasia: In this unit, our central topic will be euthanasia, which comes from the Greek for “good death.” In particular, we’ll be looking at whether doctors should be allowed to end terminal patients’ lives at their request. Helping us work through the issues is John Keown, a senior research scholar in the Kennedy Institute of Ethics who is a leading international expert on the topic.
Climate Change: Madison Powers, a senior research scholar at the Kennedy Institute of Ethics, will guide us through the material. We’ll start by looking at why climate change is an issue of justice. Then we’ll discuss the realities of what it will take to mitigate and adapt to the harms of climate change. From there, we will explore what human rights might be at stake if we don’t make adequate changes. Finally, we’ll end our unit about climate change by discussing what individuals might have a moral responsibility to do.
Global Issues in Bioethics: In his second topic, Madison will address one of the most fundamental issues in bioethics: feeding the world. He will help us understand how the economics of food production raises important questions about global justice and the world’s poor.