Medical Ethics

I.     Course Prefix/Number: PHL 180

       Course Name: Medical Ethics

       Credits: 3 (3 lecture; 0 lab)

II.    Prerequisite


III.   Course (Catalog) Description

Course uses ethical theories to investigate moral problems in medicine and health care delivery. Of value to both health care professionals and humanities students. Topics include patients’ rights, professional obligations of physicians and nurses, euthanasia, genetics and reproduction, experimentation on human subjects, and the right to health care.

IV.   Learning Objectives

After completing this class, students will be able to do the following:

  1. Define the basic vocabulary needed to discuss ethical theories and be able to state the problems that ethical theories address.
  2. Explain and compare at least four conflicting ethical theories and the arguments that support these theories.
  3. Evaluate ethical theories by critically examining (both orally and through written work) the arguments that support the theories and by discussing what important considerations may be lacking in the theories studied.
  4. Apply ethical theories to concrete issues and situations faced by health care professionals.  Issues concerning patient autonomy, death and dying, reproduction and new reproductive technologies, and privacy will be included.
  5. Apply theories of social justice to the debates over the right to health care and how it should be realized as well as to the debates about the ethics of experimentation on human subjects and about racism and sexism within the health car delivery system.
  6. Use the ethical theory with which they agree to defend their own positions on contemporary moral issues in health care ethics both orally and in writing.
  7. Exhibit values related to teamwork and collaboration, fostered by the pedagogy of shared-inquiry and critical dialogue appropriate to the humanities and philosophy.

V.    Academic Integrity and Student Conduct

Students and employees at Oakton Community College are required to demonstrate academic integrity and follow Oakton's Code of Academic Conduct. This code prohibits:

• cheating,
• plagiarism (turning in work not written by you, or lacking proper citation),
• falsification and fabrication (lying or distorting the truth),
• helping others to cheat,
• unauthorized changes on official documents,
• pretending to be someone else or having someone else pretend to be you,
• making or accepting bribes, special favors, or threats, and
• any other behavior that violates academic integrity.

There are serious consequences to violations of the academic integrity policy. Oakton's policies and procedures provide students a fair hearing if a complaint is made against you. If you are found to have violated the policy, the minimum penalty is failure on the assignment and, a disciplinary record will be established and kept on file in the office of the Vice President for Student Affairs for a period of 3 years.

Please review the Code of Academic Conduct and the Code of Student Conduct, both located online at

VI.   Sequence of Topics

(This is a sample outline of topics. In your outline of topics, please specify the dates when you will cover specific topics and other important dates such as exams and paper deadlines.)

  1. Introduction
    1. History of medicine and health care
    2. Early understandings of medical ethics
  2. Theories of ethics
    1. Utilitarianism
    2. Deontology
    3. Natural law and religious ethics
    4. The ethic of care
    5. Theories of social justice
  3. Autonomy and paternalism
  4. Defining death and euthanasia
  5. Issues about reproduction
  6. Experimentation on human subjects
  7. Health care and social justice
  8. The ethics of nursing
  9. Ethics and health information professionals
  10. The global AIDS crisis

VII.  Methods of Instruction

  • Lectures and discussion
  • Small group work
  • Films
  • Student presentations and debates
  • Guest speakers
  • Field trips may be required

Course may be taught as face-to-face, hybrid or online course.

VIII. Course Practices Required

(Please include information here about all expectations you have for your students regarding behavior, work, etc.  The following are sample topics you may wish to cover.  Please be aware that you must require students in this course to produce at least 15 pages of critical written assignments over the course of the semester.  These may be assigned in a variety of ways including journals, response papers, field trip projects, etc.)

  1. Attendance
  2. Standards for written work
  3. Quizzes/Exams
  4. Participation
  5. Essays
  6. Final Project
  7. Special policies about make-up exam, late papers, or other matters of concern

IX.   Instructional Materials

Note: Current textbook information for each course and section is available on Oakton's Schedule of Classes.

A text such as Ethical Issues in Modern Medicine edited by Arras and Steinbock should be used. It is appropriate to supplement such a text with another book that offers an in depth look at nursing, the AIDS crisis, the debate over how to reshape our health care system, or some other appropriate topic. The use of Internet assignments means that the material discussed can be very timely.

X.    Methods of Evaluating Student Progress

(In this section, please present the percentages or point breakdown of their final grade.  The writing assignments should count for at least 40% of the final grade.  An example follows.)
A.     Quizzes/Exams……40 points
B.     Essays……40 points
C.     Final project with oral presentation……10 points
D.     Attendance and participation………10 points
E.     Grading scale: 90-100, A…….80-89, B………70-79, C……….60-69……..D

XI.   Other Course Information

Instructor information
•    Office and office hours:
•    Phone:
•    Email and website:

If you have a documented learning, psychological, or physical disability you may be entitled to reasonable academic accommodations or services. To request accommodations or services, contact the Access and Disability Resource Center at the Des Plaines or Skokie campus. All students are expected to fulfill essential course requirements. The College will not waive any essential skill or requirement of a course or degree program.

Oakton Community College is committed to maintaining a campus environment emphasizing the dignity and worth of all members of the community, and complies with all federal and state Title IX requirements.

Resources and support for
  • pregnancy-related and parenting accommodations; and
  • victims of sexual misconduct
can be found at

Resources and support for LGBTQ+ students can be found at

Electronic video and/or audio recording is not permitted during class unless the student obtains written permission from the instructor. In cases where recordings are allowed, such content is restricted to personal use only. Any distribution of such recordings is strictly prohibited. Personal use is defined as use by an individual student for the purpose of studying or completing course assignments.

For students who have been approved for audio and/or video recording of lectures and other classroom activities as a reasonable accommodation by Oakton’s Access Disabilities Resource Center (ADRC), applicable federal law requires instructors to permit those recordings. Such recordings are also limited to personal use. Any distribution of such recordings is strictly prohibited.

Violation of this policy will result in disciplinary action through the Code of Student Conduct.