Issues in Law and Bio Ethics

Course number: LAW 3380


Bioethics is an interdisciplinary field of inquiry. It includes:

  • Medicine;
  • Philosophy;
  • Theology;
  • Law

In more recent times it has also come to include perspectives in women’s studies; public policy; anthropology; economics; human rights; animal rights; and the social determinants of health.

Traditionally, bioethics has been described as a field of study that addresses and responds to difficult dilemmas that have been brought about by discoveries and advances in technology, science and medicine. From a law perspective we might think of it as the regulation of biological and biomedical activities that interfere with or impact the human body and mind as well as quality of life. Any contemporary study of bioethics from a legal viewpoint must also be grounded in an exploration of human rights and fundamental freedoms and the principle of respect for the dignity of the person.

Furthermore, as global society becomes more aware and open to idea of the intricate and complex connections between humans and the living environment, there exists an increasing diversity in perspectives and approaches to bioethics, embracing issues that range from how humans exploit animals to the role that social and economic conditions play in determining health.

Accordingly, the goal of this bioethics course is to learn, discuss, elaborate and articulate ethical, legal and public policy considerations that relate to the regulation of technology, science, medicine, health and to begin to chart new territory in law and bioethics pursuant to more liberal interpretations.

This is a part lecture, part seminar course. Students will be introduced to Bioethics from both a historical perspective and through the examination of contemporary ethical theories/frameworks (i.e. modes of moral reasoning) in order to gain an understanding of the landscape of bioethics. The goal here is to first develop a common foundational knowledge in bioethical theory in order to be able to firmly ground and critique the role and limits of the law in Bioethics.

Following the introduction to the frameworks of Bioethics, we will focus our examination on particular areas of bioethical reflection in Canada including assisted death, organ harvesting; face and limb transplantation; reproductive technologies; the new genetics; human enhancement; rejuvenation technologies; robotics; and animal welfare and animal rights.

Instructor: Mary Shariff

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