Evolution of Medical Practice Essay

Published: 2020-04-22 15:24:05
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Category: Law

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1) Great Cases in Bioethics, compiled & edited by Paul A. Lombardo (2005) [available at the law school copy center]

2) Limits: The Role of Law in Bioethical Decisionmaking, by Roger B. Dworkin (Indiana, 1996) & Strangers at the Bedside: A History of How Law and Bioethics Transformed the Practice of Medicine, by David J. Rothman (Harper-Collins, 1991). [These are available for background material.on reserve at the Law Library & the Center for Bioethics]

The field of Bioethics has developed over the past thirty years as a product of several shifts in American cultural consciousness. The pervasive use of rights-based rhetoric borrowed from the civil rights movement contributed to the evolution in the role of physicians as they relate to patients. An ongoing conversation about the impact of law in shaping medical practice also influenced the current complexion of Bioethics as an area of study. A number of legal cases stand as signposts for critical moments in the history of Bioethics. They mark the changing public perception of the intersection of science, medicine, personal values and law. This seminar explores those cases.

The first two weeks of the seminar will include a course orientation and exploration of two cases by the instructor. Each week thereafter will feature a presentation on one or more seminal cases, prepared by one or more students. The second hour of the seminar will be a discussion period that focuses on the cultural impact, legal significance and ethical issues raised by the cases. In addition to a class case presentation and involvement in seminar discussions, each law student will be required to complete a research paper building on material presented during the case presentation. Students should be prepared to choose a topic and presentation date at the first seminar meeting.

Guidelines for Class Presentations and papers

Each student is required to choose a case and make a class presentation that explores the historical, legal, and ethical context of the case. The rest of the students will prepare for the class by reading the case opinion(s).

In the first hour, students should:

Present the case in its historical setting, budgeting time to entertain questions during or at the end of the hour. The presentation should highlight critical facts of the case, with particular attention to both facts and arguments that have engendered ethical debate.

Describe the responses of commentators (ethicists and other) to the case when it was decided;

Note the prevailing norms of that period with reference to the ethical and legal issues in the case”this will require a search of the literature of the period;

Be prepared to answer the question: Why is this a paradigm case (or set of cases) in the history of bioethics, in other words, why does this case have enduring significance in ethical and legal debate?

Students should plan their seminar presentation by meeting with the Professor well in advance of the scheduled presentation date.


A variety of resources may be used, including journal articles from the legal and medical literature, other cases that preceded and followed it, and contemporary media coverage that will explain the social/cultural reaction to the case. Audio visual aids, including video/audio tapes, slides or overheads may be used to elucidate elements of the case.

Depending on the time at which the case occurred and the amount of commentary (of various kinds) it may have generated, each student may use different types of resource material, and may choose a different disciplinary perspective from which to present the case. Research for the presentation should range from popular & professional books and articles that elucidate the case and its impact to information found on the Internet. Students will be expected, as part of the class session, to provide other seminar participants with copies of a detailed outline of their presentation. A bibliograpy (1-2 pages) of sources must accompany the materials.

The second hour will involve

A discussion with assistance from other students and the Professor, to place the case in the current ethical and legal context. What are the contemporary ethical issues with which the case is now associated? What current cases need to be examined in reference to the Great Case? Where does the debate stand today? What is at stake ethically in the debate and what is your position on the issues?

Seminar Paper

Each student will be required to write a research paper of significant size and substance on a topic that expands on or relates to the case presented in class. The paper will provide an in-depth exploration of issues raised during the class discussion or in conference with the Professor, and will incorporate reference material discovered during research. The paper should be no less than 25 pages, and should demonstrate familiarity with the scholarly literature in the relevant areas.

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