Medical Ethics PHIL 148 @ Binghamton University, Sum 11


Tasha’s Bio

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Hi everyone, my name is Tasha Tambeau. I am an Integrative Neuroscience major with a Biological Anthropology minor. I am also pre-med. I enjoy reading, sewing, and cooking. I grew up mostly just outside Binghamton but lived in Southern California for 3 years. I tend to be strongly opinionated about a lot of current issues but I also believe you have to understand all sides of an argument to be able to form a whole opinion. I am taking this class because it looked and sounded very interesting and it will also fulfill a requirement for my major.


Introduction- Marisa

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Hey everyone! My name's Marisa Sweeney-- I'm currently hanging out in Boca Raton for the week, on a mother's helping job for my aunt  (basically just chasing after three small children and making sure they stay out of trouble). I'm a PPL and Accounting major and I'll be starting my sophomore year at Bing in the fall.  I'm super excited about medical ethics-- after checking out some of the topics that are coming up in the next few weeks I can tell it's going to be a great class! I'm from Baldwin, NY (South Shore, Long Island) and it's a great place to be during the summer.  Outside of philosophizing, I like to read, go to concerts, and spend time outdoors, mostly at the beach.  I'm looking forward to a great class with all of you!!


Introduction Bio – Shuang

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Hi, my name is Stanley Huang. I’m a senior here at Binghamton University. I was born in NYC, NY, that’s where I currently live and also where I grew up. I am currently majoring in economics, but contemplating about whether or not to change it to PPL. One of my hobbies is watching and playing basketball. I was on the varsity basketball team in high school and even though I don’t play as much as I used to, I still play it for fun. Another passion that I found in life is cars. I love driving and modding cars.


Practice Day, Part 1 (Due: 6/1, Midnight EST)

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Note: If you just registered for the class, go back and do yesterday's assignments first.  You can find them here.

Today we're going to cover two types of activities: doing an Initial Comment on the Readings site and Posting to the main course site.  I'm going to do very detailed instructions in case any of you are unfamiliar with the WordPress blog format.  For those of you who are familiar with the format, you won't need most of these instructions, but read them over once just in case.

Keep in Mind: During the Practice Week, I will be reminding you of due dates by posting specific assignments and instructions.  After this first week, however, you are expected to know what kind of assignment you should do doing each day and when it is due.  The Assignments section to the right will always list the current day's  assignments (I update it the night before) as a reminder.  Full assignment details are available in the Learning Packet.

Group Leader Assignments

Each Case Study, News, and Debate Days will have different students as Group Leaders.  I will assign you by the end of the week.  In order to do so, I need you to email your preferences in descending order--the topic you most want to work on at the top, the one you want the least at the bottom.  So, you might list

  1. Patient-Professional Relationship
  2. Health Care and Justice
  3. Euthanasia

Where the Patient-Professional Relationship is your top pick and Euthanasia your least preferred (of course, the one you don't put on the list is really your least preferred).

The four topics are: the Patient-Professional Relationship, Euthanasia, Health Care and Justice, and Abortion.  Please email me your choices by tonight.

Reading Days>Marginalia>Initial Comment

One of the main parts of Reading Days is what is called "Marginalia."  This is simply the technical term for the notes you make in the margin of a book.  On Reading Days, as you read the text, you are going to add your own marginalia for everyone in the class to read.  On a normal Reading Day, Part 1, you will need to make a substantial Initial Comment on three of the readings for the day (details here).  However, for today's practice assignment, you are only going to do one Initial Comment.

To quote the Learning Packet:

. . . comment on a paragraph that you think is particularly important, interesting, or both.  Explain why you chose this particular paragraph and identify any important concepts, premises, or arguments in the paragraph.  If other students have already commented on a paragraph, you may still comment, but make sure to say something new or different either by using the other student's comment as a spring board or by emphasizing a completely different aspect of the paragraph.

You can see an example here.

The goal of this assignment is to focus yourself on picking important information out of the texts and work on understanding that information.  Sometimes this simply means being able to explain and analyze the text.  Other times this will mean connecting it to other concepts in the text or other texts entirely or, perhaps, giving an external example.  Think about how you make sense of a text and translate to an Initial Comment.  On Reading Days, Part 2, other students will comment on and react to these Initial Comments.  However, we'll go over that tomorrow.

For today:

  1. Go to the readings site by clicking the "Readings" link at the top of the site (no link provided here, you have to get used to the layout of the site!).
  2. Click on the first reading, Instructions.  Follow the directions given there (if you didn't do this on the first day of class or earlier).  This will be your first comment on the readings site.
  3. Start reading the assigned texts for today: Introduction, Utilitarianism, Kantian Deontology, Rossian Deontology, Alternative Theories: Virtue Ethics, and Alternative Ethics: Care Ethics and Feminist Ethics.  Yes there is a fairly heavy reading load.  However, the rest of the class you should be able to spread it out leading up to when it is due.  There's nothing that says you can't starting doing an assignment ahead of time.
  4. Finish the readings.  Feel free to make additional side comments along the way.  (Although I recommend reading everything on the first Reading Day each week, if you benefit from a slower pace, feel free to split the readings between the two Reading Days.  Just make sure you finish all the readings by the end of Reading Day, Part 2).
  5. Figure out what paragraph you think is particularly important in one of the assigned readings.
  6. Comment on the paragraph.  See the example above and the grading rubric here.
  7. If you didn't finish the readings before making your comment, finish the readings now (or plan to finish the rest of the readings tomorrow).
  8. Take pride in a job well done.
  9. Stop taking pride and do the next assignment (if you haven't already).


By now you have, of course, done the Profile assignment from the first day of class.  [If you haven't go here and read the instructions listed under "Your Profile."]

We're going to use what you wrote in the Bio section to write your first post for the course site.  Go ahead and go to your Profile following the same steps as yesterday (hint: gray bar at the top of the screen).   I recommend right-clicking (ctrl + click for a Mac) and opening in a new tab or window, so you can keep these instructions open.  Go to your Biographical Info and copy what you wrote.  Once you've done that, go back up to that convenient gray bar at the top of the screen.  Hover your cursor over "Add New" and click "Post" in the menu that drops down.  This will take you to the "Add New Post" page.

The first thing you should do here is make sure you are in the visual editor.  This is indicated by the tabs at the top right of the text editor.  The "Visual" tab should be a darker gray, while the "HTML" tab should be lighter in color.  You shouldn't have any reason to use HTML in this class.  Next, if you don't have two lines of buttons on the editor (one beginning with Bold, the other beginning with Paragraph), press the button on the far right of the row (if you hover over it, it will way "Show/Hide Kitchen Sink") or press Alt+Shift+Z.  Every time you go to create a new post, the editor will now have these settings.

Press the Clipboard/T button (Paste as Plain Text).  This is not actually necessary for this particular assignment, but if you write your posts in Microsoft Word to be on the safe side, you will need this to make sure the formatting of the post is okay.  A pop-up will come up.  Follow the instructions and press "Paste."  Voila!  Your bio info is now in the post.

Write an appropriate title (your choice) in the text box below the word "Edit Post" at the top of the page.

Write a greeting to the class to introduce your bio.

Now, look to the right.  You will see a box that reads categories with a list of options with check boxes.  This makes it easier to search the site.  Whenever you write a post, you will want to add the appropriate categories to it.  So, if you are Group Leader for a Case Study Day in the week on Health Care and Justice, you would check the categories that read "Case Studies" and "Health Care & Justice"--the type of assignment and topic of the week.  This week's category is "Introduction" and the assignment type is "Profile," so go ahead and click the box next to that category.  To bring up all posts of a topic or all posts of an assignment type.  You can click the appropriate link under "Categories" in the side bar (to the right when you are on the site).

When you're done, double check your post for any spelling or grammar errors.  Hit the blue "Publish" button to the right.

You've just posted for the first time.


A lecture on today's reading was posted last night (as it will always be before Reading Day, Part 1).  Please read the lecture.  No comments are required today, but feel free to ask anything you would like.  We will have another lecture on Friday where comments will be required.

Coming Soon

Tomorrow we'll go over commenting on the main site and responses to Initial Comments on the Readings.


Introducing . . . Your Instructor

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Allo all.  I'm your instructor Brandon Davis-Shannon.  Let's take some time today to introduce ourselves.

A philosophy Ph. D student in the program on Social, Political, Ethical, and Legal Philosophy at SUNY Binghamton, I examine issues at the intersection of normative, medical, and feminist ethics by analyzing how moral structures and understandings are organized around constructions of personal identity.  Right now, I am working on my dissertation, which examines the ways that severe depression impacts an individual's sense of self and ability to negotiate the moral understandings that we all take for granted.  I operate within a feminist framework, which sees all moral beliefs and actions as situated within social constructs.  It's a view we won't be dealing with here--it's quite a departure from the standard views of utilitarianism and deontology--but you can see a bit of it in the way that virtue ethics emphasizes the importance of the society you live in.

Outside of philosophy, I live in Binghamton with my lovely wife, wildly active (almost) one year-old daughter, and a rapscallion of a cat.  I spend my free time over-analyzing obscure TV shows, comics, books, and music.  The fact that I spend my time over-intellectualizing everything probably explains why I'm a philosophy graduate student.  It's a good life.


Lecture 06/01>Ethical Theories

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The ethical theories that you learned about today (combined with the concepts you will learn on Friday) form the basic tool set you will use to explore ethical issues in medicine.  Before we even start discussing issues in bioethics, everyone needs to have a basic foundation in the different kinds of existing ethical theories.  These are: Utilitarianism, Deontology, Virtue Ethics, and Care Ethics. [Although Feminist Ethics is an equally good theory, it is also deeply complex.  We are only going to focus on the first four in this class.]

To understand each of these ethical theories, consider these three questions:

  1. What does the theory take to be morally relevant details of the world?
  2. What is the standard by which the theory judges those morally relevant details right or wrong?

The different ethical theories are going to give various different answers to these questions, but they will also overlap in different respects.  All five ethical theories offer different strengths and weaknesses in approaching questions in bioethics. You must be able to understand different ethical issues from different ethical perspectives; therefore, you must understand each of these ethical theories as a potentially useful way of looking at the moral world. Try on different ethical perspectives and see which fits your own intuitions about what is morally correct. Test your own moral stances against each ethical theory. Use these different theories to challenge your preconceptions and the preconceptions of others.

To clarify the importance of questions (1) - (2),  let's take a look at each individual theory.

Utilitarianism is a form of consequentialism. Consequentialism answers question (1) by pointing to consequences.  Consequentialism takes the consequences of an action to be all that are morally relevant. Utilitarianism answers question (2) by establishing a standard by which to judge consequences of actions.  For utilitarianism, consequences are good or bad based on whether they maximize utility. There are  debates about what constitutes utility.  Our text gives two examples:  Jeremy Bentham defines utility as pleasure and the absence of pain; John Stuart Mill defines utility as happiness.  The significant difference is that Bentham thinks all pleasures are of an equal kind.  So, eating a steak will provide the same kind of pleasure as reading a book.  Even if reading a book tends to create greater pleasure, eating enough steak can equal that amount of pleasure.  In contrast, Mill thinks that there are two kinds of pleasures: higher and lower.  For Mill, eating steak is a lower, sensual pleasure, while reading a book is a higher, intellectual pleasure.  No amount of eating steak can equal the pleasure brought about by reading a book because they are qualitatively different.  Higher pleasures always provide greater utility than lower pleasure.  This distinction is central to Mill's definition of happiness.

All utilitarianism further stipulates that what matters is overall utility.   What is morally relevant about an action is not simply that its consequences create happiness or pleasure, but that it maximizes the happiness of the greatest number. The most moral actions will be those that cause great happiness for a large number of people. The most immoral actions will be those that cause great unhappiness for a large number of people.

However, as the readings point out, there is a further distinction to make because there are two basic forms of utilitarianism: act and rule.  Act-utilitarians believe that what matters is what particular action will actually bring about best consequences at the moment.  Rule-utilitarians believe that what matters most is what rule tends to produce the best consequences, even if that rule does not produce the best consequences in these particular circumstances.  So, if an act-utilitarian were faced with the accidental killing of a child by car, the act-utilitarian would ask: did the action create greater happiness or unhappiness? If the answer is unhappiness, then the action is immoral. If the answer is happiness, then the action is moral.  In contrast, there is no choice for rule-utilitarians because killing is recognized to generally create pain and decrease pleasure.  Thus, regardless of the particular details of this accident, the killing of the child is immoral.

Key Concepts:

  • Consequentialism
  • Rule-Utilitarianism
  • Act-Utilitarianism
  • Utility
  • Pleasure
  • Lower Pleasures
  • Higher Pleasures

Deontology takes a very different tact from utilitarianism.  For deontology, the answer to question (1) (what is morally relevant?) is duty or intentions. If you act for the right reasons, then you acted morally regardless of the consequences.  More importantly, deontology (specifically Kantian deonotology) has a radically different answer to question (2) (by what moral standard?).  The standard of moral worth for Kantian deontology is respect for persons.  What Kant calls the categorical imperative. If your intention conforms with the categorical imperative, then your action is moral.  The categorical imperative can be simply stated as the following: "Treat other persons as end, not as mere means."  Put another way, never treat others simply as tools to your own ends; treat them as capable of having and endorsing their own ends.  The clearest example is lying.  If I wanted to buy an iPod, but didn't have any money.  I might ask you if I could borrow $200.  I tell you why and then I tell you that I will pay you back next week.  I have no intention of paying you back.  I have lied to you because I want you to lend me the money.  In other words, I am using you as a mere means (or a tool) to achieving my end of getting an iPod.  By lying to you about paying you back, I am not allowing you to take my end of getting an iPod as your own.  By not allowing you this option, I am not respecting you as a person.  To do so, I would have to tell you the truth: that I cannot pay you back, but I would like you to give me the money anyway.  Only then am I respecting you as a person.

One problem with Kantian deontology is that it is sometimes obscure when it comes down to deciding between different duties.  While utilitarianism is uncertain because of the very nature of the future (there are so many uncontrollable influences, that you never can be certain what consequences your actions will bring about, Kantian deontology is uncertain because it seems that conflicting duties can hold equally. Rossian deontology attempts to fix this by introducing the concept of prima facie duties.  Prima facie duties are duties that are completely conditional.  Kant makes a distinction between duties that hold absolutely (perfect duties) and duties that hold conditionally (imperfect duties).  Ross collapses all duties into the conditional category and holds that our natural moral intuitions will help us determine what duty to follow when we have multiple duties, but can only fulfill one.  This, however, does not strictly fix the obscurity of the decision making process, as intuitions are often inscrutable--it simply makes the decision making process more transparent.

Key Concepts:

  • Kantian deontology
  • Rossian deontology
  • Categorical imperative
  • Respect
  • Perfect duties
  • Imperfect duties
  • Prima facie duties

While utilitarianism takes consequences to be the most important aspect of a moral theory and deontology takes intentions to be the most important aspect of a moral theory, virtue ethics focuses on something different: character.  In answer to question (1) (what is morally relevant), virtue ethics answers that it is the temperament and orientation of one's personality towards the world that matters. This takes some unpacking.

Character is displayed in different ways.  First, it is displayed through one's actions.  According to Aristotle, the father of virtue ethics, one does not have complete control over the meaning and success of one's actions.  In this way, virtue ethics adopts the insight of consequentialism that responsibility can outrun control--we can cause things we did not mean to cause.  So, what actions you perform are linked to the successful consequences of those actions.

Second, character is displayed through one's intentions.  It is not enough that you act and cause good consequences.  You must also intend to act in the way you acted and cause the consequences you did.  Thus, the morality of an act is not confined to consequences, but also your control over those consequences.  In this way, virtue ethics adopts the insight of deontology that what matters is what you can control.

Finally, character is displayed through the "naturalness" of one's behavior.  This is a critical aspect of virtue ethics.  You only have the right character if you innately act the right way.  Or, perhaps a better way to put it, you only have the right character if acting in the right way is second nature to you.  This is not a claim about being born a certain way.  Rather, it is a claim about habituation.  A way of acting becomes second nature by consistently acting that way.  So, when you are little you are forced to brush your teeth.  You might not want to, but you do it because your parents/guardians tell you to.  If you continue to do it because you feel obligated, but not because you want to, then brushing your teeth is not part of your character.  If, on the other hand, you internalize the habit of brushing your teeth and approve of the habit, then brushing your teeth does become part of your character.  In the same way, if you act to save someone's life, according to virtue ethics this is only a moral action if it is an organic outgrowth of who you are.  This is in deep contrast to deontology and utilitarianism, which could care less whether you act from some deep, important sense of self or not.  Virtue ethics holds that acting from who you are (your actual character) is precisely what is morally relevant.  Because the success of our actions directly impacts whether we can actually be said to have a certain kind of character (you wouldn't say a person who constantly crashes a car is a good driver, even if the crashes are never actually their fault), who we are is not entirely under our control, but open to luck caused by our circumstances.

Of course, it is not enough that we know what is morally relevant, we must also answer what makes this aspect right or wrong (question (2)).  For Aristotle, this was what he called "the mean."  The right character is a moderate character--the mean between two extremes. To understand this, we have to actually categorize different aspects of character, called virtues.  These are some examples of virtues: courage, temperance (in food and drink), generosity, charity, pride, and patience.  Each of these as corresponding extremes.  Courage, for example, is the mean between cowardice and foolhardiness.  Some of the virtues Aristotle gave do not always match up with out modern day intuitions.  For instance, it might seem odd to see pride in the list above.  Aristotle saw pride as the mean between humility (which today is often preached as a virtue) and vanity.  Pride is knowing and acting in accordance with one's own worth.  You can think of this in terms of respecting yourself.  Aristotle would say that being humble when you deserve praise is actually disrespecting yourself.  In this way, this can be thought of as a facet of honesty.

Clearly, virtue ethics is complicated.  However, it can be reduced to a simple phrase: Act in the right way, at the right time, for the right reason.  Thus, virtue ethics requires knowledge and wisdom: knowledge to analyze a situation and wisdom to know how to act appropriately.  After all, if you had no knowledge of the mean, you would have little idea what the right way to act would be!  It is because of this that Aristotle thinks how and where you are raised will greatly impact your ability to be virtuous (i.e. moral).  If you are raised poorly, then there is much less of a chance that you will be able to navigate moral situations.  Using virtue ethics requires knowing what virtue is being exercised and what moderation requires in these particular circumstances.

Key Concepts:

  • Virtue
  • Character
  • The mean
  • The virtues

Care ethics is similar to virtue ethics in that it focuses on the actual particular circumstances in lieu of universal principles.  However, care ethics is more specifically focused on relationships than virtue ethics.  Care ethics takes relationships to be the morally relevant aspect of the world (in answer to question (1)).  Utilitarianism and deontology focus on pushing away from personal relationships by abstracting to a point of fairness and detachment. Thus, for those ethical theories, precisely what is not morally relevant are individual attachments. Care ethics turns this on its head by claiming that precisely these individual attachments are what is morally relevant (at least in everyday ethics). Care ethicists argue that the detachment that utilitarianism and deontology foster is actually morally harmful because it denies certain realities of life. Central among these ignored realities is that every individual is cared for at some point in their life. Without this basic level of care, there would be no human race. In fact, there is good reason to think that the detached autonomous individual that is held up by utilitarianism and deontology is only realizable on the backs of those who care for others.

Of course, care ethics must define what it means for personal relationships to be morally good (question (2)) and it does this largely by defining what healthy relationships involve. One way to think of this, as noted above, is as a narrow set of virtues focused on relationships: “sympathy, compassion, fidelity, love, friendship.” But a simple way to think of care ethics is to emphasize a primary element of care: the ability to put another before one’s self. To do this, one needs to know and understand the other person and put aside one’s own opinions on an issue. Care ethics is built on the closeness of relationships that can develop in an atmosphere of trust--this is the ideal of care ethics.  To determine what is morally right or wrong in a given situation, care ethics must identify what relationships are involved, whether these relationships are healthy, and what kind of obligations these relationships produce.  In the example first mentioned in the utilitarianism section, a child is accidentally killed by a driver.  Care ethics could say that the action is wrong, but it would be less concerned with punishment than with the kinds of relationships of obligation the accident produces.  For instance, what kind of relationship does this produce for the driver to the child's family and what kind of actions are obligated by this relationship?

Key Concepts:

  • Care
  • Relationships
  • Health
  • Relationship virtues

All of these theories are fairly worthless if you do not know how to apply them. So, I leave you with a few ways to approach various questions from these different ethical perspectives.

Some Questions to Consider (for use with readings):


  • What examples of maximum utility are there in the reading?  Are there any?
  • How can utility be maximized?
  • What does it mean for utility to be maximized?
  • What good and bad consequences are there in the reading?  Do they balance out?


  • What are the intentions of the individual actors?
  • Do these intentions treat others as mere means?  How?
  • Could the actors have acted in another way that would have been moral?

Virtue Ethics

  • What character virtues might be involved in this reading?
  • What is involved in these virtues?
  • Have certain circumstances made it impossible to be moral?
  • Whose virtue matters here?

Care Ethics

  • What are the relevant relationships?  If there are multiple, what kind of conflict does this create?
  • What responsibility does each person have to the other?
  • Are all of the relationships healthy?  If yes, how?  If no, which are not and why are they not?
  • What impact does this have morally?
utilitarianism and deontology focus on pushing away from personal relationships by abstracting to a point of fairness and detachment. Thus, for those ethical theories, precisely what is not morally relevant are individual attachments. Care ethics turns this on its head by claiming that precisely these individual attachments are what is morally relevant (at least in everyday ethics). Care ethicists argue that the detachment that utilitarianism and deontology foster is actually morally harmful because it denies certain realities of life. Central among these ignored realities is that every individual is cared for at some point in their life. Without this basic level of care, there would be no human race. In fact, there is good reason to think that the detached autonomous individual that is held up by utilitarianism and deontology is only realizable on the backs of those who care for others.

Practice Week Schedule

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Here is a guide to the Practice Week Assignments.  Each day, I will post in depth instructions for each assignment.  I've already posted Tuesday's post in case you want to get a head start.

[Note the red color of the title of this post. A post with a red title is stuck to the top of the blog because it is important.  New posts will appear below any post with a red title.  Make sure you don't miss any posts by accident!]


  • Set up your Profile
  • Sign up for Twitter
  • Review course documents


  • Email instructor Group Leader Topic preferences
  • Practice Marginalia assignment
  • Read Lecture
  • Introduce yourself to the class by posting to the main course site


  • Comment on practice Marginalia assignments from Wednesday
  • Comment on introduction posts from Wednesday
  • Respond to comments on introduction post
  • Respond to comments on Marginalia comment
  • Review ethical theories


  • Comment on the posted Lecture
  • Take the Practice Quiz
  • Write a Response to the Practice Debate post


  • Complete any missed assignments from Practice Week
  • Start reading for Week 2
  • Review course documents
  • Review ethical theories
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Day 01 (Due: 5/31, Midnight EST)

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Hello all and welcome to the first day of Medical Ethics.  My name is Brandon Davis-Shannon and I'll be your instructor for the next five weeks. We'll have more in depth introductions tomorrow, but let's just jump in for now.

If this is your first time taking an online course, there is going to be a bit of a learning curve.  If this is not your first time, there still may be a bit of a learning curve depending on the courses you've taken and the instructors you've had.  Either way, this week we're going to slowly go through the process of learning all the different ways of interacting in the course.

My first suggestion is that you review the Syllabus, Learning Packet, Schedule, Rubrics, and Examples (if you haven't already).  You can reach these sections by clicking the links along the top of the site, below the title of the course, or by clicking the links in this post.   If you have any questions, feel free to email me or--more usefully for the class--comment on the page (if you are logged in a comment box appears at the bottom of most of the course documents).  Take some time to get acquainted with the layout and location of all the different resources.   Click on Reading and take a look at that site, look over the texts.  Feel free to practice commenting on the text in the "Instructions" section of the site.

Your Profile

By now, you should have received an invite to become a member of the site.  You must be a member to comment and post to the site and to read the course texts.  Before you follow the link in your site invitation, however, read these instructions.  I recommend keeping these open in a different tab/window after you follow the link.

After you follow the link, you should be taken to your Profile page.  If you are not, you can reach your Profile by going to the gray bar at the top of the screen, hovering over your name, and clicking "Edit My Profile."  If you can't get to your Profile, please let me know immediately.

On your Profile page, there are several different sections: Personal Options, Name, Contact Info, About Yourself, and Avatar Upload.  Leave the sections under Personal Options alone.  Our focus is on the other sections.


Fill out all of the sections under Name.  After doing so, you can choose what you want your name to appear as using the drop down menu next to "Display name publicly as."  Choose how you want everyone else to see your name when you post and comment.  I highly recommend using your first or whole name (keep in mind that the main site is public when you decide what to use).  However, I am not strict about this and so long as your are easily recognizable, you may use whatever nickname you want.

Contact Info

You may fill out any of the contact info you like.  An email is required, but if you do not use your Binghamton email, you may change it to your preferred.  Beyond that, no other info is required.  Again, keep in mind that any info you put may be displayed publicly (all that is set to be displayed at this time is "Website").  Your email will never be viewable by anyone who is not a member of the site.

About Yourself

Now we get to the more interesting part.  In "Biographical Info," tell the class a little about yourself (as always, remember that this is public).  Your info must be at least 75 words, but it can be any length above that.  This information will be displayed on your personal author page, which will be linked on all of your posts, and on the list of people accessible, curiously, by clicking the "People" link at the top of this page.  Tell us about your major, your interests, something about your life, why you are taking this class, or anything else you would like to share.

Important: Make sure that you fill out the "New Password" section the first time you visit your profile.  Your initial password is gobbledygook--you should choose something that you can remember.

Avatar Upload

Finally, it's time to upload an image that will represent you to the class.  It can be a picture of you or an image that represents something important about you.  Put some thought into what image you would like to be attached to every comment and post you make on the site.

If you are using Twitter, you can simply input your user id in the "Twitter ID" field and your image from there will be used here (if you have one there).  Additionally, if you have a Gravatar avatar, you can do nothing here and the avatar will default to that image (and if you don't know what I'm talking about, don't worry about it).

However, if you have neither of those things, or would like to use a different image, click "Browse" and choose an image from your computer.  As the section says, small, square images are the best, but the site will make do.

Extremely Important: When you are done, click "Update Profile."  If you don't do this, nothing you changed will be saved!

Check out the "People" page and click your name to see everything you wrote!


If you've decided to do the extra credit for the course and you don't already have an account, it's time to sign up for one.  Head on over to the Twitter site.

I highly recommend doing this. It is easy extra points and it provides a steady flow of unmediated information for the class.   Remember, you can use it to share links to bioethics stories and information you have found or just to ask the class questions or make random comments.  Always include the hashtag #phil148 (no spaces) in your tweets.  Otherwise, they won't show up on the course site!

Go ahead an tweet anything (something personal, something about bioethics, something about the course).  Be sure to include the hashtag #phil148.

If you are registered for the course from Day 01, you should try and complete your Profile and Twitter account by midnight 5/31.  Stay on top of the assignments and material from the very start!

Mobile Device Access

The main course site (not the readings) is available in a mobile version, so if you are out and about, you can check in on the class on your phone or iPod--you can even comment!  Please keep in mind that when commenting from a phone, you should still use proper grammar and spelling.  After all, these are graded assignments.

Note: Although the mobile site should work on Android and iOS enabled phones, I have only tested it on iOS.  Please let me know if you have any problems accessing it from an Android phone.

Coming Soon

This week, you'll be introduced to the  foundational concepts and basic ethical theories that you will be using throughout the other four weeks of the course.  As you learn this material, we'll practice commenting and posting on the site and do sample Reading Day and Debate Day assignments to give you a feel for the form of the class.



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Welcome to Phil 148, Medical Ethics!

Medical Ethics is concerned with the intersection of medical theory, practice, and policy. This course introduces students to the methods of medical ethics by engaging them with the controversies that arise from such topics as assisted suicide and euthanasia, assisted reproduction and abortion, and the problems of justice and health care access. By examining various controversies, students will learn how to use philosophical moral theories to make sense of moral quandaries that arise in a field that regularly deals with the boundaries between health and sickness, function and dysfunction, and life and death. At the same time, students will examine how these moral quandaries raise questions about the effectiveness of philosophical moral theories.

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