Fall 2005
Fully Enrolled

Leading Issues in Bioethics, Public Policy, and the Law


09/12/2005 - 12/17/2005
Tuesday 06:00 PM - 08:30 PM

Fisk Hall 115

Developments in biotechnology and the life sciences have called into question existing legal and policy approaches with respect to reproduction, health care, informed consent, privacy, medical futility and end-of-life decisions, along with a host of other issues. Relentless and rapid change in science and technology influences existing concepts of the self and its boundaries, family structure, property ownership, and the ethical and legal rights and obligations of people with respect to the government.

This course examines leading issues in bioethics, public policy and law in relation to these recent developments in medicine and the life sciences. After tracing the historical background of bioethical issues and law and deciding on methods of legal and ethical analysis, we will examine the ways in which these developments challenge traditional principles and policies.

In addition to key issues involving the physician-patient relationship, reproduction, research and experimentation using human subjects, and the end-of-life, including the special problems raised by Alzheimer's Disease and other dementias, we will consider some or all of the following subjects: genetic testing, screening, and engineering, biotechnology, organ transplantation and allocation, neuroscience and neuroethics, ownership and the commodifying of life, stem cell research, and health care. Recent and ongoing legal cases and controversies will be closely followed along with other current developments in bioethics.

The focus of this course involves critical examination of issues in their legal, ethical, social, economic, scientific, political, and religious context. We will evaluate the ethical questions raised, and explore the feasibility and effectiveness of legal and policy regulation. An important goal of the course is to encourage each student to develop a sound methodology of analyzing bioethical problems from legal, policy, and ethical perspectives.

Readings in a principal text will be assigned, either Garrison and Schneider, The Law of Bioethics: Individual Autonomy and Social Regulation, or Steinbeck, Arras, and London, Ethical Issues in Modern Medicine. Leading cases in the bioethics field will be studied closely, including Arato v. Avedon, Tarasoff v. Regents of the University of California, Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, Bouvia v. Superior Court, In re A.C., Davis v. Davis, and In re Quinlan. Additional reading will be assigned from other sources, including legal and bioethical periodicals and professional publications. Among contemporary writers to be studied are Sherwin Nuland, M.D., Bill Joy, Francis Fukuyama, George Annas, and Leon Kass. Short works of fiction will explore other facets of the field, thereby adding to the texture of the course, with selections drawn from authors including Chekhov, Tolstoy, Huxley, William Carlos Williams, Alice Munro, Hawthorne, and others. A final reading list will be available on the GLSP Web site.

Frequent short writing assignments will be given in addition to two or three medium length essays of an analytical nature on a wide range of legal/bioethical topics. Students will have the opportunity to write in some depth about a topic of their choice with respect to one of the essays. Students will be encouraged to be alert to new developments in bioethical fields and to report regularly to the class on the significance of recent developments.

A syllabus for this course is available at:

Barry Schaller (B.A. Yale College; J.D. Yale Law School) is justice of the Connecticut Supreme Court, retired, who currently sits on the Connecticut Appellate Court. Barry is author of A Vision of American Law: Judging Law, Literature, and the Stories We Tell (1997, and Understanding Bioethics and the Law: The Promises and Perils of the Brave New World of Biotechnology (2007). Barry received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Quinnipiac Law School in 2008, and currently serves as Chair of the Connecticut Committee on Judicial Ethics.


Consent of Instructor Required: No

Format: Seminar

Level: GLSP Credits: 3 Enrollment Limit: 18

Texts to purchase for this course:
Steinbock, Arras & London, ETHICAL ISSUES IN MODERN MEDICINE (McGraw Hill), Paperback


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