The course aims at introducing students to public bioethics, the philosophical discipline that, from a critical and normative perspective, aims at reconstructing, analyzing and evaluating the arguments used to justify or oppose health policies and the different forms of public intervention in the regulation of human reproduction and of medical practice and research. Together with the courses of "Bioetica: metodi e principi" (Bioethics: methods and principles) and "Biodiritto" (Biolaw), the course is part of an multidisciplinary programme that explores the philosophical and legal profiles of practice and research in the fields of medicine and the life sciences, and the potential legal uses of knowledge produced in those fields.
Expected learning outcomes
At the end of the course students should have acquired: - knowledge and understanding of the different positions about the role of law in fostering and protecting health and in regulating human reproduction and medical practice and research; - knowledge and understanding of the internal logic of different positions within specific bioethical debates, of their ontological, axiological and factual presupposals and of their normative implications; - the capability to apply acquired knowledge to elaborate and defend in a debate a personal normative position on specific bioethical issues.
After a general introduction to public bioethics, the philosophical discipline that focuses on the normative arguments used to justify or criticize health policies and the different forms of public intervention in the regulation of human reproduction, end of life choices, medical practice and research and some uses of one's own body, the course will analyze the principal questions at the center of the public debate on the following issues: abortion, infanticide and neonatal euthanasia, reproductive freedom and the new forms of reproduction, surrogacy contracts and eugenetics. For each of these questions, the main problems will be isolated and the main arguments used to defend different solutions to these problems will be analyzed in their ontological, axiological and factual presuppositions and in their normative implications. The aim of the course will not be to find the right answer to the questions at the centre of public bioethics - the metaethical assumption of the course is that there is no one right answer (while there are wrong answers) - but that of reconstructing the different possible positions and understanding their presuppositions and implications. In the light of what will emerge from the analysis of specific bioethical issues, the final lecture will outline different models of public bioethics.
Prerequisites for admission
Lectures will be given in Italian and attending students will be required to read texts and participate to class discussion in that language. Students who don't have the knowledge of the Italian language necessary to take part to these activities could take the exam in English as non-attending students. A bibliography in English will be provided. No other preliminary knowledge is required.
The teaching activities will include lectures and class discussion of assigned texts. The standard language for both activities will be Italian. Students who don't have the knowledge of the Italian language necessary to attend classes with profit could take the exam in English as non-attending students. For the final exam, non-attending students should prepare the texts listed in the Bibliography.
Students who don't have the knowledge of the Italian language necessary to attend the classes with profit but who are interested in the topics of the course could take the exam in English as non-attending students. To prepare for the exam they should study the following texts:
- P. Singer, Rethinking Life and Death, Text Publishing Company, Melbourne, 1994. - P. Singer, Practical Ethics, 3rd ed., Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2011, chapters 4 (pp. 71-93), 6 (pp. 123-154) and 7 (only pp. 160-167). - R. Dworkin, Life's Dominion. An Argument about Abortion, Euthanasia, and Individual Freedom, Knopf, New York, 1993, chapters 2-3, pp. 30-101. - M. Warnock, Making Babies. Is There a Right to Have Children?, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2002. - J. Glover, Choosing Children. Genes, Disability, and Design, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2008.
Assessment methods and Criteria
Students who don't have the knowledge of the Italian language necessary to attend classes with profit could take the exam in English as non-attending students. The final exam will consist in a mandatory written test and in an optional oral test. The written test will be structured in eight open-ended questions on the assigned texts (see Bibliography). Each answer will be given a mark from 6 to 30 (missing and completely wrong answers will get a 6) and the final mark will result from the arithmetic average of all marks. Students will have two hours to complete the written test. The oral test, that the students could choose either to take or not after receiving the result of the written test, will start from a discussion of the written test and could change its result of a maximum of two marks, for better or for worse. For students who will choose not to take the oral test, the final mark for the exam will be the mark of the written test. Being Italian the standard language for the course, students who want to take the exam in English should inform the teacher by email a few days before the date of the exam.