Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2018-2019 (archived)


Department: Philosophy


Type Open Level 4 Credits 30 Availability Available in 2018/19 Module Cap


  • None


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • to engage students with ethical issues arising in medicine and medical science, past and present
  • to introduce central ethical concepts relevant to these issues
  • to introduce key arguments for and against these concepts
  • to promote understanding of the relationship between historical and philosophical issues in medicine and medical science


  • The seminars will cover central ethical issues in medicine and medical science, past and present.
  • Seminars 1 and 2 will examine foundational texts of medical ethics and their historical context, such as John Gregory’s Lectures on the Duties and Qualifications of a Physician, Thomas Percival’s Medical Ethics and the Code of Ethics of the American Medical Association, and the present ethical guidance provided by the British Medical Association.
  • Seminar 3 and 4 will critically discuss two issues in medical science that have given, and continue to give, cause for wide-spread ethical concern: animal experimentation and human experimentation.
  • Seminars 5 and 6 will analyse the significance and limits of two aspects that have become central to a modern, ethical doctor-patient relationship: informed consent and confidentiality.
  • Seminar 7 will examine the ethical problems involved in current stem cell research and the ethical implications of cloning technologies.
  • In consultation with the Module Leader, students will choose a topic for their assessed Essay. The Essay’s topic should normally come from one of the subject areas covered in the seminars. Topic proposals falling outside these areas will have to be approved by the Course Director.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • to show familiarity with key ethical concepts concerning medicine and medical science
Subject-specific Skills:
  • to demonstrate skills in understanding and interpreting ethical concepts and arguments concerning medicine and medical science in contemporary and historical perspective
  • to analyses and evaluate central arguments for and against these ethical concepts and their applicability
Key Skills:
  • to write a critical and well-informed essay on a selected topic in the ethics of medicine and/or medical science, past and/or present

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • This module will be taught in 7 two-hour group seminars, and with individual tutorial sessions on the topic of the assessed Essay. In addition, draft versions of the assessed Essay will be presented in a one-day workshop before submission.
  • Each of the two-hour seminars will be led by a lecturer. The seminars include a short introduction to the topic by the lecturer; students’ short presentations of key literature; and joint critical discussion of pre-read research publications (partly in group work).
  • The individual tutorials (entitlement of up to 4 contact hours with the chosen supervisor) will support the student’s work towards the assessed essay. They include discussion of the chosen research/essay topic; guidance on relevant research methods and literature; development of a research plan and time-table; and feedback on essay drafts.
  • In the workshop (up to 8h) students will present draft versions of their essay and discuss them with their fellow-students and the lecturer.
  • These teaching and learning methods will support students in achieving Learning Outcomes 1-4 above. The 4 Learning Outcomes will be formally assessed by the Essay.
  • Students will also be expected to attend relevant research seminars, workshops or special lectures organised by the Department of Philosophy and the Centre for the History of Medicine and Disease.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Tutorials Up to 4 Flexible, as required 1 hour 4
Seminars 7 Weekly 2 hours 14
Other (workshop) 1 Once 8 hours 8
Student Preparation and Reading Time Associated with Formative and Summative Assessed Essays or Other Assignments 172
Student Preparation and Reading Time Associated with Contact Hours Listed Above; General Background Reading; Revision for Written Examinations etc; 102
Total 300

Summative Assessment

Component: Assessed Essay of up to 5,000 words including footnotes, excluding bibliography and appendices Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Assessed Essay up to 5,000 words 100%

Formative Assessment:

Formative essay of c. 2,000 words. Presentation of draft Essay in the workshop and in written form to the essay supervisor. Short presentations in the seminar sesions.

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University