SOC 476 - Sociology of Bioethics
Section: 001
Term: WN 2018
Subject: Sociology (SOC)
Department: LSA Sociology
Waitlist Capacity:
Advisory Prerequisites:
One introductory course in sociology.
May not be repeated for credit.
Primary Instructor:

Bioethics is a relatively new enterprise. In the early 1960s there were no bioethicists in America. There were individuals concerned with moral questions occasioned by medicine and medical research, but they were not known as bioethicists, nor did they have the institutional support of centers for bioethics, professional journals, government commissions, or graduate programs and professorships. Today bioethics is part of the landscape of the medicine and the life sciences: “ethics committees” are now mandatory in American hospitals; all federally funded research that involves human beings or animals must be reviewed by a board constituted to protect the subjects of research; a plethora of seminars offer training in bioethics for those who need, or wish, to offer ethical advice; bioethics courses are now a regular part of the curriculum at universities, colleges and medical schools.

This appearance of bioethics raises a number of interesting sociological questions:

  • Why did medicine and the life sciences suddenly decide to get ethical?
  • How has this new profession insinuated itself into discussions about the means and ends of medicine and the life sciences?
  • Why do we now turn to bioethicists (as opposed to doctors, the clergy, or lawyers) to help us decide what is right?
  • Just who are bioethicists?
  • How does one become a bioethicist?
  • Where do bioethicists work?
  • How do bioethicists organize their work?
  • What have the life sciences gained and lost as a result of the presence of this new profession?
  • How has medicine responded to this new form of social control?
  • How do ordinary questions in medicine and science become bioethical questions?
  • Who decides which questions merit the special attentions of bioethicists and what criteria are used to make those decisions?

In this course, we will seek to answer these questions, a task that will require us to learn a bit about the sociological perspective, moral philosophy, and various approaches to bioethical reasoning. The goal of a sociology of bioethics is not to solve moral problems, nonetheless, sociology can contribute to a more moral bioethics.

SOC 476 - Sociology of Bioethics
Schedule Listing
001 (LEC)
TuTh 8:30AM - 10:00AM
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