Course Syllabus hsci 2105: Current Issues in Bioethics Note: this course is conducted entirely online, asynchronously. Students are expected to log in to the course several times throughout every week to participate in class activities

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Course Syllabus

HSci 2105: Current Issues in Bioethics

Note: this course is conducted entirely online, asynchronously. Students are expected to log in to the course several times throughout every week to participate in class activities, as well as complete independent work each week.

Spring 2015 (15-week session)

Shawneequa L. Callier, JD, MA 
Assistant Professor
Department of Clinical Research and Leadership
School of Medicine and Health Sciences
The George Washington University
2100-W Pennsylvania Avenue
Suite 5055
Washington, DC 20037

Office: 202-994-4216

Fax: 202-994-0870

Faculty Profile:

Twitter: @SLCallier


Thomas (Tom) Harter, PhD 
Adjunct Professor

Department of Clinical Research and Leadership

School of Medicine and Health Sciences
The George Washington University
Associate Clinical Ethicist

Medical Research

Gundersen Medical Foundation

1900 South Ave., C03-006B 

La Crosse, WI 54601

Office: 608-775-0708

Fax: 608-775-1565

Fax: 608-775-1565


 Office Hours

Chat/Tel: By Appointment

Email: Anytime

Office Hours:

Chat/Tel: Tuesday-Thursday: Noon-1pm CST

Email: Anytime

Course Description

Competing perspectives on various topics, including access to health care, the ethical conduct of research on human subjects, genetic and stem cell research, and the morality of designing life and permitting death–continue to make the field of bioethics interesting and dynamic. This course will introduce students to the foundational theories that helped to form the field of bioethics, and offer an opportunity to investigate general and specific ethical questions from both a personal and an organizational perspective. Through class discussions and independent writing, students will be expected to assess and apply theories of morality and to evaluate them within the context of modern concerns and criticisms related to science and medicine.

Course Objectives

Students who have successfully completed this course will be able to: 

  1. Compare and contrast basic ethical theories, traditions, and perspectives.

  2. Identify ethical issues within different research and clinical contexts.

  3. Apply moral theories and reasoning tools in the resolution of ethical cases and situations

  4. Formulate positions on modern bioethical issues utilizing traditional ethical theories and perspectives.  

Course Format

Each session's reading assignments and discussion topics will be posted to the respective links under the "Weekly Sessions" tab in the course menu. Most class "sessions" will run from Thursday morning at 12:01 A.M. until 11:59 P.M. the following Wednesday Eastern Standard Time.   While most sessions are a week long, the first session is longer so that we can transition smoothly into a Thurs-Wed format.

We will use Announcements to communicate important information and to direct you to various areas of the virtual “classroom.”  Please take the time to explore the classroom and become familiar with it.  During the semester, we expect you to access the classroom several times each week to stay current with and active in what's going on in our classroom.   

Although we are making all of the class sessions available to you at the start of semester, we may come up with additions/modifications to individual class sessions over the course of the semester. For this reason, we must reserve the right to make changes to class sessions up until the start date of each respective session. 

Course Requirements

Your final course grade will be based on the following:

  • 30% - Active participation/leadership in online discussions (see description/expectations below)

    • DB1-2 4%

    • DB3-8 13%

    • DB 9-15 13%

  • 25% - Reflection Journal

    • Qs1-3 18%

    • Q4 7%

  • 20% - Presentation

  • 5% - Syllabus Quiz

  • 20% - Other Course Quizzes

    • Belmont 10%

    • Informed Consent 10%

Complete descriptions of each of these assignments as well as links to submit them can be found under session tabs in the course menu.

Required Textbooks

1. Purtillo, R. B. & Doherty, R. (2010). Ethical Dimensions in the Health Professions (5th ed.). Missouri: Saunders.

2.  American Psychological Association. (2010). Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (APA). Sixth edition. Washington, DC:  American Psychological Association. ISBN 1-4338-0561-8

Grading Policies

The Department of Clinical Research and Leadership follows the grading policy of the School of Medicine and Health Sciences.  Students will receive a letter grade rather than a grade based on a 100-point scale.  In undergraduate courses, grades range from A to F, where A=Excellent; B=Good; C=Satisfactory; D=Low Pass; F=Fail.  '+' or '-' grades may also be assigned. Faculty are responsible for evaluating the performance of students in a meaningful, useful and timely manner and for assigning grades on a basis that is rational, just and unbiased.

Late Work

In general, late work is not accepted.  We realize there may be times you have conflicts and unexpected events that may interfere with regularly scheduled assignment submissions.  Students need to take the initiative to contact their professor by email prior to the scheduled due date so alternate arrangements can be made. Your professor will decide if the excuse is acceptable or not, but in most cases there will be a penalty.  Typically, acceptable excuses are limited to major emergencies.



Multiple choice quizzes are open book and do not have a time limit, but they must be completed by the due date.

  1. Presentations - DUE at NOON on the Saturday before the NEXT SESSION

To successfully complete this course, every student must prepare a PowerPoint Presentation that is assigned to them based on the first letter of their last names. Scroll down to the chart summarizing the weekly assignments to identify the week that you are on call to present. Everyone else should engage with the presenters. Presenters are expected to engage with all classmates who comment on their presentations during the weeklong session and on at least two other presentations.


  • No more and No less than 10 slides. 

  • Slide 1: Name and Title

  • Slide 2: Bullet Point Summary of Scenario

  • Slides 3-4: Explain the ethical dilemma(s) using bullet points and notes in the notes section. 

  • Slides 5-7 Explain and apply the relevant ethical principles and theories discussed in previous weeks. Include references to the assigned reading only in the notes. 

  • Slides 8 Answer the scenario question and/or provide a recommended course of action

  • Slide 9 conclusion 

Advice: Use bullet points and quotes, but do not fill the slide with text.  Add explanatory text and references in the notes section. Do not copy text as an explanation.  We will be evaluating how well you understand the theories and principles so you should use your own language. 

If you have deep issues with your presentation topic and want to present on another topic, please also let me know that as soon as possible.  Please be open to presenting on a topic that has nothing to do with your line of work.  The class will benefit if you instead facilitate detailed discussion in response to another student’s presentation on a topic in your field (sonography, pharmacy, laboratory services, emergency medicine) by applying your current and expected experiences to the topic. Share war stories and explain why a student's suggestions would or would not work in your field.  Health care requires interdisciplinary collaboration so it is important that you understand the issues that will arise on health care teams and among your peers.

  1. Reflection Journal Entries –DUE BEFORE THE MONDAY OF THE NEXT SESSION

Many of the issues that we will cover throughout the semester will resonate with you in very personal ways. You will have strong responses and feel pulled in a range of different directions, often for subjective and emotional reasons.  I urge you to practice applying the approaches to problem solving and the tools of ethical reasoning that we will discuss throughout the course to any intuitive responses you have to the material. Of course, the biases, traditions, and diverse influences that we bring to the course are inherently important to the bioethics discourse. It is therefore important that you take an opportunity to observe how your perspective, feelings, and background can influence problem solving and communication within a real world setting. Accordingly, to successfully complete this course, one of your tasks is to reflect on the assigned activities and questions in your reflection journal by demonstrating an understanding of the pros and cons of your arguments and that your understanding goes beyond cultural beliefs and values.

Grading Rubric:

  • A Range:  Answers all of the questions and responds to professor’s comments.  Refers to the application of concepts, principles, and ethical theories discussed in the assigned reading.  Uses topic sentences and clear and concise language.  Provides an analysis by explaining how the facts and issues specific to the question apply to what is learned in class.  Provides well-reasoned opinions and counter arguments.  Provides a concluding opinion and supports it. Supplies references to the assigned reading with page numbers. 

  • B Range: Misses elements described in A

  • C Range or below: Does not answer all of the questions. Provides and opinion without an ethical analysis. Does not clearly demonstrate application of the reading material.

Participation/Leadership in Online Discussions

The discussion board and your participation therein is a critical element of this course. To earn a "C" grade in participation, you will be expected to make at least one entry for each question posed in the weekly discussion board and interact with at least two of your colleagues.  In other words, if you expect to earn a "C" in participation, you should post at least one original thread in each forum and then respond substantively (we add or contribute to the discussion and not simply write, "I agree") to at least two of your colleagues' entries. 

Expectations: How to get an A

Since we’re assuming that some of you will want to maximize your grades in every part of the course, we'll provide you with further guidance as to how each of you can earn an "A" in participation. After you have posted your initial comments, read and react to those posted by your colleagues.  Ask questions or seek clarification, elaboration or examples. In other words, do your part to expand the online exchange of ideas to greater depths and higher levels of thought.  Be sure to respond or react to those questions that have been posted in response to your initial comments. Be sure to respond to the initial question and questions posted by your professor as well.

Demonstrating leadership in the online discussion is your ultimate goal. You can do this by:

    • moving the group towards a goal. In this case, that goal is learning.

    • communicating your ideas in a way that shows regard for others. One way that you can demonstrate respect for all who will be reading your discussion posts and written assignments is to take the time to proofread your work so that it is presented in a way that is well-organized and free from spelling and grammatical errors.

    • creating an environment where diverse ideas are solicited and listened to. You can foster such an environment by asking probing questions, seeking clarification, and elaboration so as to better understand others' points of view, playing devil's advocate, integrating multiple perspectives, comparing and contrasting your classmates' ideas, etc.

    • demonstrating respect for others by posting your comments early in the week so others have the chance to read and respond, and responding to questions posed by others.

In order to be a leader in the online classroom, you must be a full and active participant. A grade for participation will be assigned at the end of the semester. If you have any questions or concerns during the semester about your performance in this area, please do not hesitate to ask. 

Writing Standards

Students are expected to use correct English in all course communications. Grades on all assignments will reflect the extent to which the student has correctly applied principles of grammar, mechanics, punctuation, spelling and effective sentence structure. Any deficiencies in these areas will result in either a grade penalty.

Plagiarism and Academic Integrity

The George Washington University's Code of Academic Integrity applies to all work done for this course including written assignments and discussion postings.

Using someone else's words, ideas, phrases, or data, and representing them as your own, either intentionally or unintentionally, is known as PLAGIARISM. Plagiarism is a serious form of academic dishonesty and is a violation of the University's Code of Academic Integrity.  Plagiarism can be grounds for a failing grade in an assignment or even in a course.

It is expected that all students read and be familiar with the University's Code of Academic Integrity.  

For more information on student rights and responsibilities, go to where you will find a link to the University's Guide to Student Rights and Responsibilities.

For more information about plagiarism and how to avoid it, click on this link to GW's Gelman Library.  If you have questions throughout the semester, please email your professor. 

Statement on Disabilities

Any student who may need an accommodation based on the potential impact of a disability should contact the Disability Support Services office at 202-994-8250 to establish eligibility and to coordinate reasonable accommodations.  For additional information, please refer to

Health Sciences Student Handbook

For further information about your educational experience in the School of Medicine and Health Sciences, please see the Health Sciences Student Handbook.

 Course Overview


Major Assignment Due Dates

Session 1: Mon Jan 12 to Wed Jan 21 (Extended Session)

Introduction to Morality and Ethics

  • Assigned Reading

  • Post an introduction

  • Discussion Board 

  • Syllabus Quiz

  • Initial Discussion Board Posts are always due by Saturday at Noon EST.

Session 2: Thur Jan 22 to Wed Jan 28

Ethical Theories and Approaches to Decision-Making

  • Assigned Reading

  • Discussion Board

  • Belmont Report Quiz

Session 3: Thurs Jan 29 to Wed Feb 4

Application of Sessions 1-2. Presentation Discussing Scenarios.

  • Presentation (only if the first letter of your last name begins with a letter A-F)

  • Engage with classmates and presenters.

  • Note: Presentations are due by Noon EST on the Saturday, before the 5th

Session 4: Thurs Feb 5 to Wed Feb 11

The Practitioner-Patient Relationship

  • Assigned Reading

  • Discussion Board

Session 5: Thurs Feb 12 to Wed Feb 18

Justice and Fairness in Health Care

  • Assigned Reading

Session 6: Thurs Feb 19 to Wed Feb 25

Justice and Fairness in Health Care Continued

  • Discussion Board (Initial post due on February 19th)

Session 7: Thurs Feb 26 to Wed Mar 4

 Reproductive Choices

  • Assigned Reading

  • Discussion Board

Session 8: Thurs Mar 5 to Mon Mar 9 SHORT SESSION

Reflection Session / Reflection Journal Activities

  • Respond to Reflection Journal Q1 (Interview a Friend re their thoughts on confidentiality)

  • Respond to Reflection Journal Q2 (Reproductive Choices)

  • Respond to Reflection Journal Q3 (Life and death scenario)

Entries due by Monday the 16th because of Spring Break

Session 9: Sunday Mar 15 to Wed Mar 25

Extended Session

Chronic and End-of-Life Care

  • Assigned Reading

  • Presentation (only if the first letter of your last name begins with a letter G-O)

  • Engage with classmates and presenters. 

Note: Presentations are due by Noon EST on the Saturday, before the 26th

Session 11: Thurs Mar 26 to Apr 1

Genetics and Digital Technology

  • Assigned Reading

  • Discussion Board

  • Review professor comments on your reflection journal entries and respond if necessary

Session 12: Thur Apr 2 to Wed Apr 8

Justice and Fairness in Research

  • Assigned Reading

  • Quiz due next week

Session 13: Thurs Apr 9 to Wed Apr 15

Human Participation in Research and Informed Consent

Sessions 14: Thurs Apr 16 to Wed Apr 22

Application of Sessions 10-12

  • Assigned Reading

  • Presentation (only if the first letter of your last name begins with a letter P-Z)

  • Engage with classmates and presenters.

Note: Presentations are due by Noon EST on the Saturday before the 23rd.

Session 15: Thur Apr 23 to Wed Apr 29

Ethical Dimensions in Professional Life

  • Respond to reflection Journal Entry Q4 (Must complete by noon on April 29th to receive a strong reflection journal grade for this course).

Copyright Notice
The Copyright Act (17 U.S.C. § 10) governs the rights attributed to owners of copyrighted work. Under certain circumstances, educational institutions may provide copies of copyrighted works to students. The copies may not be copied nor used for any other purpose besides private study, scholarship, or research. Users should not provide electronic copies of any materials provided on this course's Blackboard site to unauthorized users. If a user fails to comply with Fair Use restrictions, he/she may be held liable for copyright infringement. No further transmission or electronic distribution is permitted.

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