Medical Ethics and the Movies

Instructor: Elizabeth Reis
Offered by Macaulay Honors College
Tuesdays, 5:30 – 8:00pm

This upper division seminar considers major debates in bioethics in light of recent scholarship in medical humanities, disability studies, and gender studies, drawing on perspectives from philosophy, history, literature, sociology, and film.

From the question of informed consent to the very recent debates about genetic engineering, this course examines some of the most important social questions of our time: Should we experiment on human beings? Is there a difference between biomedical enhancement and eugenics? How can we alleviate health disparities, particularly those exacerbated by the history of medical experimentation and racial injustice? Should we give cross-sex hormones to adolescents experiencing gender dysphoria? Whose authority should prevail in medical decision making: the patient’s or the doctor’s?

In analyzing the legal, moral, and philosophical debates that shape current public discourse, this course invites students to approach complex moral issues through the lens of both popular culture and scholarly analysis. Using selected films as well as readings and discussion, we will explore moral and social concerns from a variety of perspectives. We will approach the weekly films with these questions in mind: How is the issue under consideration being presented to a mass audience? How might the film’s presentation differ from or adhere to more scholarly bioethical considerations?

Course Codes:

MHC 339 | CRN 32324 | Location: Macaulay Honors College, Classroom 304