Faculty of Arts

Monash University

Undergraduate - Unit

This unit entry is for students who completed this unit in 2014 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 1, 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 Arts
OfferedSouth Africa Second semester 2014 (Day)
Coordinator(s)Mr Charles Villet


The unit investigates how the law and public policy should respond to advances in medicine and biotechnology. The unit adopts a global perspective but looks at issues through a South African and African lens. Issues that are and covered includes: whether employers and insurance companies should be permitted to discriminate among applicants on the basis of their genetic profile; whether the law should protect individuals' genetic privacy or whether we have a duty to share our genetic knowledge; whether the law should act paternalistically to prevent people from harming themselves; whether people who are partly responsible for their own bad health should receive lower priority of care in hospitals, or whether advances in knowledge in the biological bases for behaviour give us reason to doubt individual responsibility. These issues are linked to the situation regarding bio-technology in South Africa and Africa in general, with particular reference to some of the ethical dilemmas encountered within this context.


On successfully completing the unit, students will have:

  1. familiarity with the key philosophical approaches to discrimination, autonomy, responsibility and equality as they apply to debates within bioethics and relating these approaches to the South African and African context;
  2. skills enabling them to think critically about key ethical, policy and legal issues raised by recent advances in medicine and biotechnology;
  3. the ability to make informed judgements about those ethical, policy and legal issues.
  4. be able to critically assess the situation in South Africa and its accompanying ethical dilemmas as it relates to bio-technology.


Exam: 30%
Tutorial performance: 10%
Written work: 60% (2500 words)

Chief examiner(s)

Workload requirements

One 2-hour lecture and one 1-hour tutorial per week

This unit applies to the following area(s) of study