Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences

Monash University

Postgraduate - Unit

This unit entry is for students who completed this unit in 2012 only. For students planning to study the unit, please refer to the unit indexes in the the current edition of the Handbook. If you have any queries contact the managing faculty for your course or area of study.

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6 points, SCA Band 2, 0.125 EFTSL

Refer to the specific census and withdrawal dates for the semester(s) in which this unit is offered, or view unit timetables.

FacultyFaculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences
OfferedNot offered in 2012
Coordinator(s)Dr G Petterson


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)
contribution to online discussion (20%).

Chief examiner(s)

Dr Guy Petterson

Off-campus attendance requirements

Weekly reading as required and contribution to online discussion forum - off campus students

Additional information on this unit is available from the faculty at: