Monday, February 18, 2008

Bioethics Paper 1: Topics: Death and Dying

Final draft: Due Monday February 25 in class.

You must get a rigorous peer review from at least one of your classmates, submitted with your paper using this form here and

Length: approx. 5 pages; 12 point font, double spaced, 1” margins.

Prerequisite: have read and summarized Vaughn Chapters 3 and 4 on how to write a philosophy paper. This was an OPS writing assignment already; if you haven’t turned it in, you can turn it in with your paper.

Thus far we have discussed many arguments for and against:

  • active euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide,
  • assisted suicide and disability, and
  • when, if ever, coma / PVS patients' lives should be ended.

For your first argumentative essay you should:

(1) Pick one of these issues above;

(2) Pick one of the cases discussed about these issues (from Pence, Singer or any of the other sources we have used); you should not explain the facts of the case in much detail beyond what is absolutely necessary: the point of this paper is not to retell the history of the case:

(3) You should then argue for a view about what, morally, should have been done in this case, or what should have happened. That is, you should explain what the ideal outcome would have been in this case and why. (In some cases, you might think that the ideal outcome, what should have happened, was what actually happened).

a. To do this, you must present at least three of what you think are the strongest arguments in favor of your view about what should have been done, and explain and defend your view on why these are sound arguments;

b. You must defend your argument from three of what you think are the strongest objections against your view: explain why these objections or contrary perspectives are mistaken and why.

(4) Finally, you should explain what, if any, implications your arguments about this one issue concerning death and dying have for another issue (above) about death in dying. So, for example, if you discussed active euthanasia, you should explain what your arguments imply (or might imply) for assisted suicide or ending the lives of coma patients; if you discussed coma patients, what implications (might) your view have for active euthanasia? These issues are all related in various important ways, so this section of the paper allows you to explore these relations.

Your paper should have a paragraph long introduction that explains what you will do in the paper; the introduction should end with a thesis statement; your paper should be well-organized (make an outline), carefully argued, clearly written so that anyone could read it and understand (if they knew the details of the cases), and have a conclusion. Follow Vaughn’s guidance on writing.

You must reference at least three of the sources we have used (Pence, Singer, Rachels, Callahan, Brock, “One Nurses Story,” the page on the sanctity of life ethic, etc.).

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