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EPM5020 - Comparative moral theory and ethics

6 points, SCA Band 2, 0.125 EFTSL

Postgraduate Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences

Leader: Dr G Petterson


Alfred Hospital First semester 2007 (Day)


Principles of ethical theory as a foundation for study in bioethics. Different models of ethical theory and reasoning discussed, various cultural and religious traditions explored. The approach provides a comparative cultural background within which students are able to contextualise bioethical debates. Issues in meta-ethics considered prior to discussion of three main traditional perspectives in normal ethics - Kantianism, Utilitarianism, and Virtue Ethics.


On completion of this unit students should be able to:

  1. understand the nature and role of ethics and values in society, particularly in a multicultural context;
  2. appreciate the different theories on moral thinking and ethics that have historically developed in East and West (i.e. from a cross-cultural and global perspective);
3 demonstrate their skills to think through common moral dilemmas and familiar issues through a variety of competing ethical theories and frameworks, and ways of problematising moral positions on specific practices;
4. apply this thinking in a particular practical context of medical practice - e.g. the doctor-patient relationship, principalism, consent , autonomy, invasive processes, etc - in contexts where religions and ethnic-cultural background determine the patient's and community's moral repertoire; and
5. Debate and resolve challenging issues in bioethics in imagined and real-life situations in a morally and culturally diversified milieu (e.g. would either a suggested abortion or euthanasia be acceptable to a Muslim family, without giving offence to orthodox Islamic moral principles?)
By the end of their studies students will have acquired the ability to assess critically and apply a range of moral frameworks and methodological approaches in dealing with issues in the discourses of medicine, health care and bioethics.


1 Examination (40%)
1 Essay (40)
1 Oral presentation (20%).

Contact hours

2 contact hours per week