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Why Teach Bioethics in the Classroom?

A New Look at an Old Debate

by Carolyn Csongradi

"Men are neither angels nor devils; that makes morality both necessary and possible." H.L.Hart (18)

For centuries, philosophers, theologians, and politicians have written about different ethical systems which influence how personal choices are made, and then are balanced against the more general goals of society. Individuals have a tendency to champion their own welfare. At the same time society wants to advance the general welfare without allowing any one group or individual to benefit at the expense of another. Recognizing that these needs may sometimes conflict, laws and covenants codify what society regards as moral or immoral for individuals. One important assumption has been that those defining what is acceptable are fundamentally moral individuals, who have an idea of what is "good" and "right". How do we become morally responsible? Where do we acquire values, principles and the reasoning skills to solve moral problems? The links below are the result of an investigation of these questions and their answers. For those visual thinkers out there, graphic indices of this material are included alongside the table of contents below. The superscripted numbers you see throughout the text link to the bibliography.

  1. Definitions of Terms
  2. How Do We Acquire Knowledge About Principles And Values?
  3. What Is The Relationship Between Nature And Nurture?
    1. Nature Is More Influential Than Nurture
      1. Evolutionary View
      2. Neurological Studies
      3. Philosophical Discussion
    2. Nurture Contributes More Than Nature
      1. Philosophical Discussion
      2. Neurological Studies
      3. Moral Origins
    3. Nature And Nurture Interact In Sequential Stages
      1. Behavioral Observations
      2. Moral and Reasoning Processes(see Reasoning Processes below)
    4. Nurture Is In Equilibrium With Nature During Critical Periods
      1. Physiological Evidence
      2. Behavioral Observations
  4. Reasoning Processes
    1. Moral and otherwise
    2. Importance to educators
  5. Teaching Moral Problem Solving - Techniques
    1. Health Professions Approach
    2. Origins Of Guiding Principles
    3. Factors Influencing The Way Decisions Are Made:
      1. Context
      2. Values
      3. Principles
      4. Ethical Systems: Teleological, Deontological And Virtue
      5. Perspective: Justice, Care, Fairness
      6. Example: story
    4. Strategy for moral problem solving
      1. Steps In Decision Making
      2. Example: Physician'S Dilemma
    5. Why The Topic Of Bioethics In Class?
      1. Technology And Science Are Value Laden
      2. The Time Is Right
    6. In Conclusion
  6. Additional Sources Of Information
    1. Curricula
      1. Tobacco Papers Project
      2. Radium Dilemma
    2. Woodrow Wilson: Bioethics
    3. Videodiscovery's Bioethics unit
  7. Literature References
    1. Favorite References
    2. Bibliography
Click on an image, below, to access these
pages through a graphic index.
Knowledge Acquisition

Moral Problem Solving

To download PDF files:

The Nature of Learning

Ethical Problem Solving


Discussion Questions

About the Author: Carolyn Csongradi


For their valuable insight and thoughtful suggestions, the author wishes to thank:
Nicholas H. Ney, Ph.D. Assistant Clinical Professor Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences Ernle W.D. Young, Ph.D. Clinical Professor Medical Ethics (Pediatrics) Stanford University School of Medicine

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