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Why the Topic of Bioethics in Science Classes?

A New Look at an Old Debate

by Carolyn Csongradi


What Techniques Are Helpful In Developing Moral Problem Solving Skills?

One method of approaching the topic of conflict resolution is to engage students in dialogue around a moral problem whose content is a part of regular course work. The process of problem solving involves critical thinking skills which cannot be effectively taught in the absence of meaningful content.

In general, the solution to a problem will involve balancing and prioritizing several competing values. Moral principles can be thought of as a set of rational "equations" which attempt to sort conflicting values by assigning a higher priority to one over the other. Principles are like a scale which allows us to give weight to the pros and cons of different courses of action. Justification for these principles hinges on one of several ethical systems. Courses of action, which result from this balancing act, often end up being less complicated and difficult than the actual evaluation process.

One profession's approach

Moral problems in medicine have long posed real-life tests of how well some theoretical principles are able to assist physicians in making responsible decisions, which may have legal and moral consequences. Bioethics and medical ethics are fields of study composed of experts using a multi-disciplinary approach to analyze possible choices from differing points of view in complicated cases. A professional code for ethical behavior, which has roots in western civilization, helps justify difficult courses of action. Health providers are guided by the following four ethical principles, which are key components to their professional ethics codes. We can also find these principles represented in the Constitution, court decisions, and in cultural and religious traditions.(4) From the medical code of ethics, actions taken by health professionals must(2):

  1. Benefit the patient - life is sacrosanct (beneficence).
  2. Do no harm unless balanced by the hope for improvement (non-maleficence).
  3. Result in an even handed allocation of scarce resources- characterized by fairness (justice ).
  4. Respect others as equal partners in making a decision (autonomy).


Teaching Moral Problem Solving Continued:

Origins of Guiding Principles


Additional Sources of Information


Bioethics in Science Index


Science Education Reform Index


Let's Collaborate Index


 
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