Medical Ethics

PHIL 1200:Medical Ethics                                                                    Paper, Summer 2020

Planning an essay and writing an essay are not wholly separate activities; usually a writer moves back and forth in stages from the one to the other.  Use your plan (and the comments you receive from your classmates and I) as a guide when revising your essay for the final draft.  I will have examples of essay plans under Content on D2L and I will also go over essay plans in a video. But, here is what I am looking for:

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Essay Plans: The plan should include the following items:

  • Title
  • Thesis: This must be a prescriptive claim. For example: I think we should not put children in solitary confinement. Your thesis should be SUPER clear.
  • 2-3 Main Arguments: Each main argument should be centered around a class concept or idea (for example Kantian ethics or the idea of an open future). You will explain what this idea is and why it is important. You will then apply it to your argument and explain how it is related to your thesis. If you need additional facts, you can add them to support your theoretical concept/idea.
  • 1-2 Objections: Here, you will imagine how someone might object. Try to think of a theoretical idea/concept that opposes one of your main point. For example, the principles of autonomy and paternalism oppose each other. If you use autonomy as a main argument, you could draw on paternalism here. Or, think about how utilitarianism might initially suggest one course of action, but how a deeper look at utilitarianism looking at long term consequences might suggest an opposing course of action. Use articles that contradict one another—for example, Gay-Williams opposes James Rachel’s ideas about euthanasia. Use the concepts/ ideas in different ways to make your own arguments!
  • Response to each objection: In this section, you will respond to the objection and again claim why your thesis is important and right. Don’t restate the same arguments you make for your main arguments—try to think of another way you would respond to make your argument stronger. For example, if you talked about the principle of autonomy as a main argument, and then objected with paternalism, maybe in your response you could draw on Rosam’s article about how important parent’s rights to make decisions are.
  • In the final paper, you can add a short introduction where you give some details about the case you are discussing. And, you can add a short conclusion.

 

  • Sunday 6/21: you will post this on the discussion board and others will give you feedback. (I will give you feedback privately).
  • I would be happy to look at your essay plans. Please schedule a time with me or contact me during my office hours!

Final Paper due: Sunday 6/28. Upload it to dropbox on D2L.

 

Need Help?

I am available during my normal office hours. I will have additional office hours on the dates listed below. Just contact me to reserve a sopt and we’ll meet via zoom:

Thursday, June 25, 9-11:30

Friday, June 26, 9-11:30

 

Mechanics

  • Essay Plans should be about 500 words. Plans over 650 words will lose points.
  • The paper should be about 1,200-2,000 words (3-5 double spaced pages). If the paper is over 2,500 words I will deduct points.
  • Put the word count at the top of your essay plan and paper.
  • Indicate which paper topic you picked at the top of your document.
  • You do not need to include a works cited page if you are just using course materials. You MUST cite course materials, just as we have been doing in our Learning Activities. If you use outside materials, provide full citations for all your outside sources (including web sites!): author, title, date, etc.

 

Very Important

  • Make sure each section of your paper is centered around a philosophical idea/concept. This is NOT a research project or paper based on just facts. It is a chance for you to think about the IDEAS/CONCEPTS we have already learned, explain them and apply them to different, real life situations. You must focus your paper on engaging with course materials (not on ‘outside’ research). If you do not do this sufficiently, you will receive at most a D on this paper.
  • Regardless of the topic chosen, explain what you are talking about clearly, as if the reader is not familiar with the topic. Imagine you are writing to a friend or a parent who is interested in your topic, but HAS NOT TAKEN THIS CLASS. This means you will have to explain everything!
  • Narrow down your topic. There are many things you could say; don’t say them all.  Pick a clear and narrow thesis, and 2-3 points to support that thesis.
  • Make sure you consider 1-2 or so objections to your view and respond to them.

 

Why are you writing this paper?  The purpose of this paper:

  • This assignment will help you develop skills that will be useful for you throughout your lives.
  • Express your own ideas about a controversial subject in a logical, calm, clear, well-articulated manner.
  • Consider strong counterarguments; explain these as clearly as you can and then respond to them well.
  • Use the tools we learned in this class to help you (like you’d use a saw or a drill to help you build something better and more efficiently).
  • Synthesize materials learned throughout the course and show your knowledge of course materials instead of a final exam.

Paper Topic Options

 

  1. The Trump Administration recently expanded legislation allowing health care providers to decline to participate in certain forms of health care if it violates their deeply held convictions. This is called the “Conscience Rule”—the idea that we should not be forced to do things against our conscience. Many are calling this an important protection for health care workers. However, many others worry that the expanded conscience rule proposed by president Trump may be used to deny care to certain groups of people (for example, people who identify as LGBTQI). For instance, if a rural doctor refuses to prescribe birth control because it violates her conscience, this may impact the health care of patients who don’t have options to find another health care provider to fill this role. For more on the story see this link: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/02/upshot/conscience-rule-trump-religious-exemption-health-care.html

What do you think? Should health care workers be able to “opt out” of certain job duties if it violates their conscience? What if this impacts patients’ access to certain treatments? In this paper, you will have to consider the autonomy of both the health care providers and the patients.

 

  1. Doctors have an obligation to keep their patients’ secrets but can this be breached? If a person tells their doctor that they have been a victim of domestic abuse but refuses to tell the police, should the doctor do so? What about the bus driver with epilepsy who continues to drive but withholds the diagnosis from the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV)? If a patient has a serious genetic disease which a relative may also have, such as Huntingdon’s disease (a fatal, incurable condition which is passed on to children 50% of the time), should doctors tell the relative even if the patient refuses permission? In this paper, the main question you are addressing is: Should doctors always protect patient confidentiality or are their cases when this should be violated?

 

  1. Those living in rural American report that they have more financial insecurity and less access to health care. For more details see this article: https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2019/05/21/725059882/poll-many-rural-americans-struggle-with-financial-insecurity-access-to-health-ca What do you think? Should the government make sure that people in rural areas have access to health care? OR Should the government provide health care to all, despite their ability to pay for it? (If you choose this question, you can think about the aspects of this article that relate to chapter 9. However, be sure to also think about the broader ethical ideas like care, virtues, Kantian ethics, utilitarianism, the capabilities approach in relation to this question).

 

  1. With the onset of the Coronavirus/Covid-19 pandemic, medical resources were limited and in short supply. Although it seems that we may have overcome many of these worries, we can still tackle the questions these articles posed. How might we determine who gets access to care when medical resources are critically necessary but limited? Should we prioritize those patients who have a better chance of survival or should we distribute according to some other principle? It seems like medical professionals may have had to face the unthinkable: they might have to let some die. For more on this story, see: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/mar/14/coronavirus-outbreak-older-people-doctors-treatment-ethics(British context) and https://www.npr.org/2020/03/21/819645036/u-s-hospitals-prepare-guidelines-for-who-gets-care-amid-coronavirus-surge (American context). Should we follow a utilitarian principle of medical resource distribution, treating where we’re most likely to get the best results (e.g. those most likely to recover and recover quickly) or should we reject this principle, instead favoring another kind of ethical principle for distribution? Which of our ethical theories do you think provides the best guidance and why? If you choose this topic, consider how it relates to the discussion in chapter 8. For an objection to utilitarian principles, you may also want to consider this story: https://www.mprnews.org/story/2020/03/23/npr-people-with-disabilities-say-rationing-care-policies-violate-civil-rights.

 

 

  1. Abortion is a controversial subject that the American Medical Association has largely tried to avoid. However, recent state legislation in North Dakota has required that women seeking abortions be given certain “facts” related to the procedure. The AMA contends that these statement are not factual or that they require doctors to be the mouthpiece of the state. For more specifics on this story see: https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2019/07/02/738100166/american-medical-association-wades-into-abortion-debate-with-lawsuit

What do you think? Should health care professional and/or professional organizations like the AMA take a stand on controversial issues? Your paper should consider the specific duties of health care professionals to their patients but also to their broader communities. Remember to draw on our ethical theories when answering this question!

 

  1. Many states have now passed laws allowing those who are terminally ill to end their lives by taking medication prescribed by their doctor. In our book, we defined this as physician assisted death, or PAD. Most laws in the US focus on allowing PAD only for the terminally ill, or those with less than 6 months to live. But, what if a patient is experiencing unbearable suffering but is not terminal? What if a patient is suffering from Alzheimer’s but not terminal? For more see this story: https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2015/10/07/446631786/despite-sweeping-death-with-dignity-law-few-will-have-that-option Should patients be allowed access to PAD when they experience an essential loss of their personhood? If you choose this paper topic, you should not simply give an argument for or against euthanasia, although you may certainly use ideas discussed about euthanasia. Instead, you should also explore the idea of personhood and think about the quality vs quantity of lives.

 

 

Tips for Writing Your Medical Ethics Paper

  1. Writing Style. Simple, straightforward writing is preferable when you are dealing with complex and controversial topics. Use the word “I” when you are explaining your views. Follow Jim Pryor’s guidelines for writing a good philosophy paper at: http://www.jimpryor.net/teaching/guidelines/writing.html.

 

  1. Textual Evidence. Rather than quoting whole sentences from the text, paraphrase them in your own words and include a page reference.  If you include direct quotes in your paper keep them fairly short.  Rephrase each quote in your own words to show that you understood it.  Include lots of textual evidence (by this I mean page references/citations, not quotes).

 

  1. Philosophical concepts. Your paper must be organized around philosophical concepts and ideas. Make sure you clearly explain and apply all philosophical concept/ideas you are using in your own words.Explaining’ means describing the moral concept in general in enough detail that someone who has never heard of the concept would be able to understand how it is being used.  Explaining the concept before applying it demonstrates that you fully understand the concepts being used and discussed in the essay.  Applying’ means explicitly showing how the concept being discussed fits into the specific issue that you are discussing.  For example, if you are using the idea of utilitarianism, you would explicitly show whose pleasure is being included and how that pleasure is being maximized and do a sort of utilitarian calculus.

 

  1. Clarity and Organization. Your paper should be very clear and well organized.  Each paragraph should be clearly centered around one and only one idea.  It’s a good idea to state this idea clearly in the beginning (or at the end) of your paragraph and then organize your paragraph in such a way that it provides support for this idea. Use headings for each section of your paper, just like you do in the essay plan. This really helps!

 

  1. You should check your spelling and grammar before handing in your paper.  You should also read your paper aloud.  This seems like a silly idea but reading your paper slowly and loudly will help you identify awkward and unclear sentences.  You can also give your paper to a friend to read and ask him/her for detailed and honest feedback.

 

  1. Don’t even think about cheating!  I have NO tolerance for plagiarism.  I will not hesitate to give you an ‘F’ in the class if I see any plagiarism whatsoever.  Check the Anoka-Ramsey Community College handbook for guidelines and consult me if you’re not sure of something. See this short video for tips on how to avoid plagiarism: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2q0NlWcTq1Y

 

  1. Academic Support Center. Students should consult with the center’s director for information on tutoring available for other subjects. Day and evening hours; walk-ins welcome!

 

  1. Getting Help: I Am Here to Help You 🙂  Please let me know if you have any questions.  I am very happy to help and I have set aside special office hours to be available to help!

 

 

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