PHLB09: Biomedical Ethics

Note: This page has been archived. If you want access to any of the documents previously posted here, you can send me an email. Tutorial summaries have been appendixed to the end of this page. I have been fortunate to have spent the term with all of you, and I wish you the best in all your pursuits.

This page is for students in C’s tutorials for Dr. G. Anthony Bruno’s PHLB09H1S (2016): Biomedical Ethics. Here, I will post content and resources relevant to our tutorials, curated based on your recommendations and needs. I will host files here in a .pdf format; please let me know if you experience any difficulties accessing the documents (in the broadest interpretation of ‘access’). You are in one of C’s tutorials if you’re enrolled in one of the following:

TUT 3006: Thursdays, 7-8pm, Room AA204
TUT 3001: Thursdays, 8-9pm, Room BV361

NOTE: REFER TO PORTAL/BLACKBOARD FOR ALL OFFICIAL COURSE DOCUMENTS. The content on this page is subject to change as the course progresses and we learn from each other, but none of it will supersede the official course documents and policies.

Reminder: Emails. All emails should be sent from your utoronto account, to my designated gmail account, as listed in the syllabus, and in the tutorial information and guidelines document. Emails must include the course code in the subject line. Emails not meeting these requirements cannot be guaranteed a response.

Documents and Resources

  1. Tutorial information handout — [archived]
  2. Participation information handout — [archived]
  3. Tutorial summaries — [archived]
  4. Tutorial cases + handouts — [archived]
  5. Midterm remarks handout — [archived]
  6. Initial Paper remarks handout — [archived]
  7. Send anonymous feedback — [archived]

Tutorial Summaries

These are brief summaries of what happened in tutorials, in case you need a reminder or happened to miss a week. These are not exhaustive, and won’t capture anything you or other students say in the classroom, but should serve on a basic level to prompt your recall or further study.

Week Two: Tutorial One. This week, we met one another for the first (and hopefully not last) time! I began by talking through a handout which discussed some of my thoughts about tutorials, and how participation would be graded. I then began the philosophical content by giving a recap of the last two weeks, with a focus on the key points from the latest readings on paternalism. Collectively, we looked at a case study to try exploring more closely the concepts involved in paternalism, concerning a case of anorexia nervosa. And, given your feedback, the case analysis was well received and we will be doing more of them in the future.

Week Three: Tutorial Two. We started off this week with some administrative reminders. The most important one remaining is: if you are currently attending our tutorials but are not enrolled in them on ROSI, you need to email me and get permission to be in these tutorials. Following that, we looked at a case together and in small groups. I spent some time at the end emphasizing the importance of how messy the case was, because bioethics is also messy. I also tried to highlight a few important things that your responses were pointing toward (such as stigma’s impact on health[care], misconceptions with mental health, and what questions we might want to ask in general), and we’ll continue to delve into these as the course goes on. Next week, we’ll look at informed consent.

Week Four: Tutorial Three. Administrative notes: I will sometimes hang out around Tim Horton’s from 6-7, not as office hours, but in a public space if you want to meet and chat; I will try also in the future to see if it’s feasible to post case studies a day or so in advance of tutorial, depending on circumstances. In terms of content, we took a class vote between giving everyone an argument primer or doing a case study; given the upcoming midterm, people in both tutorials voted in favour of the primer. I discussed concepts like validity, soundness, and cogency, most which are mentioned in the textbook but which I hopefully made more clear (note: I used the word “cogency” laxly, and there are those who use it as a technical term with regards to inductive arguments. The case could be made that this carries in a manner to deductive arguments, but it was not my intent to use it as a technical term, and one should avoid using it as a technical term when talking about deductive arguments). The case study we opted against will be made available from the main tutorial page shortly. If you need more help getting a handle on logic and argumentation, a quick google search will land you on many good resources, and you can also try the exercises in Chapter One of our textbook. Note: I will have an “official” midterm designated office hour from 5-6pm on Thursday in the TA Office of the philosophy portable (PO102).

Week Five: Tutorial Four. This week, both tutorials voted in favour of spending the tutorial to review for the upcoming midterm. In the 7pm session, we capped off with a quick take on a case study; a quick census suggests we will go deeper into them this upcoming week after the midterm, so you won’t have to be prepared with new material, though you can check the case studies on the main page to prep. In the 8pm session, we spent the whole time on review, and we did a tutorial assignment instead of a case study, checking in on how things are going this term. It looks like you wanted in a majority to do a case study either on RCTs or abortion next week. I’ll try to bring an abortion case, but it may be better left for once people have had time to decompress from the midterms and do the readings. Some people in both tutorials indicated they like the idea of a debate: I’ve got plans for this in weeks to come. Good luck on the midterm! (Also, check out this SMBC comic on RCTs [link]).

Week Six: Tutorial Five (post midterm). We spent essentially the whole time going over a case study involving my father’s enrollment in an RCT. I also made strong recommendation of Harriet Washington’s book “Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present“, particularly apt for our study of medical experimentation and research during Black History Month.  I’m sure you can find a pdf online without too much work, but I implore you to support the author by purchasing a copy if you are able.

Week Seven: No Tutorial (reading week). There are no classes or tutorials in week seven.

Week Eight: Tutorial Six. In response to an anonymous class vote, we did not hold a debate in either tutorial. Instead, I gave a short overview of Thomson’s “people seeds” example, and explained why it holds a particularly important place in her paper and in broader discussions on abortion ethics. We then had a brief discussion on what might be missing from our abortion readings, from the literature in general, and what place these sorts of texts have in a broader conception of the argumentative space in discussions over the moral permissibility of abortions. The hope in asking the question and starting the discussion was to get you thinking a bit about issues of representation in philosophy and bioethics, the roles of analytic arguments in a broader social sphere, and the roles we might play as individuals in all these places, regardless of which positions we hold. I also mentioned that David Boonin holds a version of the “future like ours” argument, but takes it to fit in a pro-abortion argument rather than anti-abortion as Marquis does; that argument appears in pages 56-90 of his book “A Defense of Abortion”. I also mentioned offhand that there is a metaphysics of pregnancy research project that’s been ongoing; a link to that is [here]. We ended a few minutes  early to return midterms.

Week Nine: Tutorial Seven. I held an office hour 5-6pm in Philosophy Hall to discuss midterm queries. We split off into groups to hold a small dialogue (debate) on the general morality of IVF against alternative means of reproduction and family building. The document spelling out the context and question for discussion will be available in the collected tutorial documents pdf shortly.

Week Ten: Tutorial Eight. We spent the majority of the time in both tutorials discussing the upcoming papers, how to write them, how not to write them, and general guidelines and recommendations. I handed out a sheet with some general remarks, though I remarked not to take this as an absolute authority. The handout will be posted to this tutorial site’s main page. We wrapped up with a ticket asking for your thoughts on papers, and on screening for disability. I will have office hours for the paper next week, as announced by blackboard.

Week Eleven: Tutorial Nine. I gave a summary of the different types of assisted dying and the readings for the week. We then spent the rest of the class engaged in another “dialogue” regarding two approaches from disability advocates to discussing the ethics of PAS versus VAE. The handout for that will be available from my main tutorial page shortly.

Week Twelve: Tutorial Ten. In lieu of the sort of week we’ve been having, and emails I received, we opted to have a less participatory lesson. I spent most of the time in both tutorials doing a mini-lecture on the failures of bioethics to engage in intersectionality and individuality, and the social determinants of health; the ways those relate to the Black Lives Matters movement and the recent Ghomeshi trial results; the role of narrative bioethics in correcting these issues, and some concerns about uncritical narrative bioethics; and a review of the course through these lenses, with a partial emphasis on resource allocation at the microlevel (which was relatively undiscussed in our text). I then summarized the week’s readings as usual, and we did a ticket check in. Next week is our last week; we will do exam review and TA evaluations. 

Week Thirteen: Tutorial Eleven. (Final week). Based on feedback from last week, I spent today reviewing exam materials. I discussed some ways to study for particular sections, and what ideal answers will generally look like. I then diagrammed all the examinable course materials, week by week, and did an overview of what each chapter discusses and what each author defends. Hopefully this will be a good tool for approaching the readings on your own terms, with a framework in mind. We wrapped up with questions and TA evaluations; the ticket solicited your final participation feedback and general perspectives on the course. I have had a fantastic time sharing this term with you all, and it’s a sincere regret (although you may disagree) that we weren’t able to share another term together. I wish you all the best in all your unique pursuits, and hope we manage to bump into each other again (outside the exam, that is).

Essays will be returned the week of April 4th. Final participation grades will also be returned before the final exam. The memories, well, they will linger with us always, won’t they. Good luck with all your work, and I’ll see you at the exam!