Issues in Medical Ethics

Instructor: Prof. Elizabeth Reis
Tuesdays, 4:00 – 6:40 PM at Macaulay Honors College
Course Code: MHC 324
Modality: Hybrid

This class will blend interdisciplinary scholarship on bioethics with an applied perspective on ethical decision-making in the clinical setting. Drawing from literature in diverse fields such as philosophy, medicine, law, history, sociology, anthropology, and public policy, the class will explore basic concepts in bioethics and see how they are utilized in the hospital with real patients and real physicians. Though we will be unable to visit the hospital because of Covid, we will host several guest physicians and ethicists who will bring their patients’ stories into our classroom. Students will come to appreciate how theoretical discussions of important ethical concerns like patient autonomy, end-of-life care, or the limits of informed consent are applied in a medical setting.

A significant portion of the class will focus on the pandemic and its impact on hospital care. So many longstanding ethical concerns have become visible and urgent at the same time. We will examine, for example, the early shortage of personal protective equipment; hospital strategies for triage and allocating ventilators; health care inequities related to race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and disability; and the country’s political divisions exacerbated by the vaccine controversy.

We will meet once a week on Tuesday late afternoons; some Tuesdays we’ll meet at the Macaulay building and on other Tuesdays we’ll meet only virtually. You must be prepared to meet in-person for many of the class sessions and be available remotely for the rest. If you cannot meet in-person then you should not register for the class. Of course, if the pandemic worsens, we will switch to all virtual meetings.

READ: Prof. Reis describes the outcomes for students who took her class during the pandemic.