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Unit information: Introduction to Bioethics in 2019/20

Please note: Due to alternative arrangements for teaching and assessment in place from 18 March 2020 to mitigate against the restrictions in place due to COVID-19, information shown for 2019/20 may not always be accurate.

Please note: you are viewing unit and programme information for a past academic year. Please see the current academic year for up to date information.

Unit name Introduction to Bioethics
Unit code SSCM30001
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Professor. Ives
Open unit status Not open

None, other than those pre-requisites for undertaking study on the programme.



School/department Bristol Medical School
Faculty Faculty of Health Sciences


This unit will provide an introduction to the field of bioethics. The unit will introduce students to the main ethical theories in bioethics, linked to some contemporary debates in moral philosophy. Theoretical bioethical analysis will be illustrated by reference to selected ethical issues in medicine and science. Aims: By the end of the unit students will have a basic understanding of key themes in bioethics theory, and have developed skills in philosophical analysis, construction of arguments and debating. The course will serve to integrate the students’ studies in moral philosophy, law and bioethics and will help them to prepare a topic for the dissertation unit.

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this unit a student should:

  • Be able to demonstrate knowledge of the bioethical themes and issues studied;
  • Be able to undertake bioethical research and thereby locate bioethical sources;
  • Be able to state the bioethical concepts and principles studied accurately;
  • Be able to apply the bioethical concepts and principles studied to contemporary issues;
  • Be able to critique the bioethical concepts and principles studied.

Teaching details

Students receive 12 x 2-hour seminars led by staff members.

Assessment Details

Summative assessment comprises an essay of 4000 words. Formative assessment comprises: preparation of seminar exercises; participation in seminar activities, including group-work and oral presentations; a written assignment of 2000 words.

Reading and References

  • Dickenson, D., Huxtable, R. and Parker, M. (2010) The Cambridge Medical Ethics Workbook (2nd edition), Cambridge University Press, Cambridge
  • Campbell, A, Gillet, G, and Jones, G. (2005) Medical Ethics (4th Edition), Oxford University Press, Oxford
  • Beauchamp, T., Childress, J. (2012) Principles of Biomedical Ethics (7th Edition), Oxford University Press, Oxford