Catholic Bioethics

Course Code: RGT2911HF



Fall 2016
Thursday 16:00 – 18:00



Course Description

Using a case-based approach, and a combination of lectures and directed discussion, this course will explore foundational and current issues in Bioethics in light of Catholic tradition and teaching.



Topics to include: bioethical issues at the beginning of life and end of life; research on human subjects; resource allocation and rationing; bioethics in a global context; principles of biomedical ethics; ethic of care; virtue ethics/Christian virtue ethics. The instructor will present an overview of each week’s topic; however, the bulk of the class will be devoted to a discussion of the issue at hand. Students will be evaluated on two 3-5 page reflection papers, one midterm test, one final examination and class participation.

Course Objectives

Students successfully completing this course will be able to demonstrate the following learning outcomes. (Not all categories will be required for all courses.)


— critical thinking skills through case work and directed discussion;
— effective communication skills through in-class discussions and assigned reflection papers;
— the ability to marshal factual information required for bioethical analysis through lectures and assigned readings;
— the ability to work collaboratively to moral and personal insight through directed in-class discussions.
(B) IN RESPECT OF THE UNDERSTANDING OF THE CONTENT OF ONE OR MORE THEOLOGICAL DISCIPLINES, through the readings and lectures students will develop:
— an understanding of approaches to Moral Theology and bioethical theory;
— an understanding of Catholic Church teaching on various bioethical issues;
— an understanding of historical and current intersections of Catholic Moral Theology and Bioethics
(C) IN RESPECT OF PERSONAL AND SPIRITUAL FORMATION students will have the opportunity:
— to become aware of personal assumptions and biases operative in their understandings of Moral Theology, Catholic Church teaching, and issues in Bioethics;
— to consider alternative approaches to and understandings of bioethical issues in light of Catholic Church teaching;
— to have in-depth dialogue about issues, ethical theory, Catholic Church teaching and personal moral and spiritual development in a forum that is curated and safe.
— a familiarity with current bioethical issues;
— the capacity to bring critical thinking to those issues;
— the ability to view those issues in light of Catholic Church teaching.

Course Schedule

A detailed course schedule is available for download.

Week 1

Introduction to Catholic Bioethics; introduction to the study of Bioethics; what is a person?

Week 2

Assisted human reproduction; ethical theories – deontology, utilitarianism, teleology.

Week 3

Prenatal diagnosis and selective termination of pregnancy; principles of biomedical ethics: nonmaleficence, beneficence, respect for patient autonomy, justice.

Week 4

Research on human subjects.

Week 5

Consent and capacity; practice of informed consent, substitute decision-making. Video: “Mr. Nobody.”

Week 6

Resource allocation and rationing; understanding justice.

Week 7

Organ transplantation.

Week 8

Health care professional-patient relationship; virtue ethics/Christian virtue ethics and health care.

Week 9

AIDS: Global lessons in health care.

Week 10

End-of-life issues: Assisted suicide.

Week 11

Forgoing treatment; use of pain relief at the end of life; principle of double effect.

Week 12

Euthanasia and mercy killing; review.