• Class Number 3478
  • Term Code 3430
  • Class Info
  • Unit Value 6 units
  • Mode of Delivery In Person
    • Dr Nathan Emmerich
    • Dr Nathan Emmerich
  • Class Dates
  • Class Start Date 19/02/2024
  • Class End Date 24/05/2024
  • Census Date 05/04/2024
  • Last Date to Enrol 26/02/2024
SELT Survey Results

Rapid advances in the biosciences, biotechnology and biomedicine represent a challenge to our society and raise some very difficult ethical questions. Since its advent in the mid 20th century the field of bioethics has engaged with such issues and developed a range of responses and proposals. In this course you will consider diverse perspectives through readings, tutorial discussions and lectures.

The kinds of topics we will consider in this course may include: Should vaccination be compulsory or is this an infringement of personal rights? Should we create a market in transplantable organs to save more lives? Can research and experiments on human and non-human subjects be conducted ethically? Is it ethical to edit a baby’s genes? What about the genes of a whole population? Should we let algorithms and artificial intelligence drive our cars, help us make decisions about who to hire, or help us decide who to imprison? Do we owe future generations a liveable planet? Should we seek to enhance human capabilities, such as our cognitive ability, our moral perceptions or our emotions? This course will give you the tools to understand these questions like these and to make clear ethical arguments that point to the right course of action. In other words, this course will teach you how to argue well, and how to translate your scientific knowledge into good decisions both for yourself and for society.


Note: Graduate students attend lectures alongside undergraduates but have a dedicated tutorial and are assessed separately. 

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion, students will have the knowledge and skills to:

  1. Discuss, communicate and engage with the science involved in various bioethical debates and the associated social, cultural and political issues.
  2. Understand and employ a range of approaches to ethical and moral reasoning.
  3. Identify and evaluate relevant bioethical literature.
  4. Assess and analyse the benefits, risks, and societal & ethical implications of developments in the biosciences, biotechnology and biomedicine.
  5. Identify, articulate and defend a personal view in the context of bioethical debates.
  6. Independently research, evaluate and critically engage with facts, values; and ethical arguments about unfamiliar topics.

Research-Led Teaching

The lecturer(s) in this course will share with you their own research and experience, as well as other relevant research that has made a contribution to the area.

Field Trips


Additional Course Costs


Required Resources

The following books provide a useful introduction to ethics, ethical arguments, and essay writing. They are available as ebooks through the library.

Swartwood J, Stoner I. Doing Practical Ethics. New York, NY, USA: Oxford University Press; https://library.anu.edu.au/record=b7144828

Churchill LR. Ethics for Everyone: A Skills-Based Approach. Ethics for Everyone. Oxford University Press; 2020 https://library.anu.edu.au/record=b7101908

Weston, A. A rulebook for Arguments, Fifth Edition. 2017. Hackett publishing, USA. https://library.anu.edu.au/record=b5803517

Recommended student system requirements 

ANU courses commonly use a number of online resources and activities including:

  • video material, similar to YouTube, for lectures and other instruction
  • two-way video conferencing for interactive learning
  • email and other messaging tools for communication
  • interactive web apps for formative and collaborative activities
  • print and photo/scan for handwritten work
  • home-based assessment.

To fully participate in ANU learning, students need:

  • A computer or laptop. Mobile devices may work well but in some situations a computer/laptop may be more appropriate.
  • Webcam
  • Speakers and a microphone (e.g. headset)
  • Reliable, stable internet connection. Broadband recommended. If using a mobile network or wi-fi then check performance is adequate.
  • Suitable location with minimal interruptions and adequate privacy for classes and assessments.
  • Printing, and photo/scanning equipment

For more information please see https://www.anu.edu.au/students/systems/recommended-student-system-requirements

Staff Feedback

Students will be given feedback in the following forms in this course:

  • Written comments
  • Verbal comments
  • Feedback to the whole class, to groups, to individuals, focus groups

Student Feedback

ANU is committed to the demonstration of educational excellence and regularly seeks feedback from students. Students are encouraged to offer feedback directly to their Course Convener or through their College and Course representatives (if applicable). The feedback given in these surveys is anonymous and provides the Colleges, University Education Committee and Academic Board with opportunities to recognise excellent teaching, and opportunities for improvement. The Surveys and Evaluation website provides more information on student surveys at ANU and reports on the feedback provided on ANU courses.

Other Information

The lectures will be recorded. Workshops will not be. Attendance at tutorials in mandatory.

Class Schedule

Week/Session Summary of Activities Assessment
1 An Introduction to Bioethics: History and Methods
2 Defining Death & Euthanasia Tutorial
3 Ethics and Transplantable Organs: Gift or Commodity? Tutorial
4 Reproductive Ethics 1: Abortion, IVF, Surrogacy and ectogenesis Tutorial
5 Animal Ethics: Eating Meat and Research Tutorial, Argument assignment due
6 Ethics and Climate Change. Tutorial
7 Reproductive Ethics 2: Choosing children: Prenatal Screening, Genome Editing and Procreative Beneficence Tutorial; Short Essay Due
8 Beyond Animal Ethics: stem cells, human-animal chimeras, brain organoids, and other forms of artificial consciousness. Tutorial
9 Ethics and Enhancement in Sport, Cognition, Morality and Love. Tutorial
10 Bioethics and Race. Tutorial
11 Should we cure Ageing? Regenerative medicine and Cryonics Tutorial
12 Policy and Politics: Contextualising Bioethics and the Life Sciences. TutorialFinal essay deadline

Tutorial Registration

Registration for tutorials and workshops will open during week 1. Registration is required, and instructions will be given during the lectures of week 1.

Assessment Summary

Assessment task Value Due Date Return of assessment Learning Outcomes
Tutorials (attendance is mandatory) 11 % * * 1,2,3,4,5
Understanding Arguments 19 % 18/03/2024 30/03/2024 1,2,3
Short Essay 30 % 02/04/2024 19/04/2024 1,2,3,4,5
An essay plan for the long essay 5 % 09/05/2024 14/05/2024 2,3,4,5
Long essay 35 % 24/05/2024 20/06/2024 2, 3, 4, 5

* If the Due Date and Return of Assessment date are blank, see the Assessment Tab for specific Assessment Task details


ANU has educational policies, procedures and guidelines, which are designed to ensure that staff and students are aware of the University’s academic standards, and implement them. Students are expected to have read the Academic Misconduct Rule before the commencement of their course. Other key policies and guidelines include:

Assessment Requirements

The ANU is using Turnitin to enhance student citation and referencing techniques, and to assess assignment submissions as a component of the University's approach to managing Academic Integrity. For additional information regarding Turnitin please visit the ANU Online website Students may choose not to submit assessment items through Turnitin. In this instance you will be required to submit, alongside the assessment item itself, hard copies of all references included in the assessment item.

Moderation of Assessment

Marks that are allocated during Semester are to be considered provisional until formalised by the College examiners meeting at the end of each Semester. If appropriate, some moderation of marks might be applied prior to final results being released.

Assessment Task 1

Value: 11 %
Learning Outcomes: 1,2,3,4,5

Tutorials (attendance is mandatory)

The tutorials are arguably the most important part of this course, and so preparing for the tutorials by doing the readings carefully and giving yourself enough time to think about them is really the key to getting the most out of this course.

Because of their importance, attendance at tutorials is a course requirement and is recorded. Failure to attend at least 8 tutorials will result in the grade NCN. To be perfectly clear, you must be physically present in at least 8 tutorials. The only exception that will be made is when a student has no unexplained absences (i.e. no absences that are not supported by medical documentation) and has missed more than three tutorials, all of which are supported by medical documentation which was submitted on time. In these cases an additional assessment may be assigned in place of the missed tutorials.

Grading: For each tutorial, you will be given a score of 2, 1, or 0. To achieve a score of 2, you must:

1.    Submit to your tutor at the start of each tutorial one question that was raised in your mind by each of the readings you were assigned (e.g. if there are four readings, you need to submit four questions). These questions do not need to be detailed or long-winded. But they must be non-trivial, and demonstrate that you have thought about the reading. A single sentence is fine. A good question is one that you can ask during the tutorial, and that might spark discussion about an aspect of one or more of the readings.

2.    Attend the tutorial and contribute to the discussion. At a minimum, this could involve asking to the group one of the questions you submitted to your tutor at the start of the tutorial. Another useful thing to do is to ask someone else their opinion.

3.    Provide a succinct verbal summary of any one of the readings if you are asked to do so. You do not have to have understood everything in the reading, but you should be able to describe in a few sentences what the reading was about, what you understood from it, and what you struggled with or were confused by.

Your final tutorial grade (out of 11) will be calculated as the mean of all of your tutorial grades. If you had to miss tutorials for documented medical reasons (for which documentation was provided as outlined in the handbook), the mean will be calculated only from the tutorials you were able to attend. For example, if you missed one tutorial for medical reasons, and your remaining 10 grades consisted of two ones and eight two's, your mean grade would be 18/10 = 1.8 and your final grade for the assignment would be 1.8x11/2 = 10%.

Due: Every Friday in weeks 2-12 inclusive

Returned: Throughout the semester

Students are expected to contribute on an on-going basis throughout the semester.

Assessment Task 2

Value: 19 %
Due Date: 18/03/2024
Return of Assessment: 30/03/2024
Learning Outcomes: 1,2,3

Understanding Arguments

This assessment will build on your reading of the books listed in the required resources section and, particularly, on the workshop in week 2/3. The assessment is designed to help you better understand and review what an argument is, what makes a good argument, and what makes a bad argument. This assessment is a building block on the way to writing argumentative essays, which will require you to have a solid understanding of arguments.

Grading: the sum of the grades adds up to a maximum of 19, which is the total number of percentage points that this assessment is worth for the course.

Due: Monday of week 5 (18th of March 2024)

Returned: Two weeks later

Assessment Task 3

Value: 30 %
Due Date: 02/04/2024
Return of Assessment: 19/04/2024
Learning Outcomes: 1,2,3,4,5

Short Essay

You will write an essay by choosing from a list of potential essay questions. The list of potential essay questions will be made available to you at the start of the course, so that you can study it and take time to consider which question would be most interesting for you, and so that you have time to do additional research and reading throughout the semester.

Deadline: The due date for the essay is 2355 on the first Tuesday of the mid-semester break, the 2nd of April 2024. You are very welcome to submit your essay ahead of the deadline if you like. We will endeavour to mark it and get it back to you quickly if you do so.

Note: you will have the opportunity to submit a second short essay with a due date of 2355 on Friday the 26th of April 2024 (week 8) if you wish. You may submit this second essay any time before the deadline. If you take this option, we will simply keep the best of your two short essay marks as your short essay grade.

Details: A tutorial essay means that you are being asked to think deeply about the topic and write about your thoughts and opinions. The essay is NOT a summary of the topic. Attribute ideas of authors of readings provided by referencing them with the APA referencing style. You must reference all your information/ideas appropriately. Structure your essay with an introduction, body, and conclusion. And remember: state your contention clearly at the start of the essay, as the first sentence.

These essays are not a summary or review of information from the readings or the discussions in the tutorials, and no marks will be given for this content of an essay. Note that your tutors will mark your essays, so you must be careful not to simply repeat the opinions of others that you heard in the tutorial. You need to make on your conclusions, and on making clear, concise, logical, and ethical arguments for why you arrived at those conclusions.

More information on writing essays will be given during course.

Grading: The essay is graded according to the rubric given to you at the end of the course handbook. Pay particular attention to: answering the question by clearly stating your contention at the start; presenting clear logical arguments (avoiding logical fallacies!!) for your contention.

The rubric is useful guide, but a simple version of it can be stated very easily. A good essay:

·      Demonstrates a clear understanding of the material, and of the question

·      Makes clear, cogent, and ethical arguments that support your contention

·      Is written clearly and concisely, without unnecessary jargon

·      Shows accurate spelling, grammar, and formatting

·      Is compelling

Here are some practical tips that should help you:

1.    Read the question carefully.

2.    Answer the question clearly in the first sentence of your essay.

3.    Consider all relevant readings you have been assigned, and consider doing additional reading (though additional research is not a requirement for the short essay).

4.    Study the marking rubric – we include it to help you.

5.    Reference all sources using the APA referencing style.

6.    Avoid footnotes.

7.    Do not include your name on anything you submit, only your U number.

8.    Avoid quotes unless absolutely necessary (hint: the best essays almost never use quotes).

9.    Write clearly and succinctly.

10. Write a clear topic sentence at the start of each body paragraph.

11. Re-read your essay once it’s done – ask yourself whether each paragraph, sentence, and word helps to answer the question. Delete paragraphs, sentences, and words that do not help.

12. Take note of the word limit (detailed below and in the course handbook).

13. Make sure you know the ANU’s rules and penalties for plagiarism. The penalties are very severe (e.g. in most cases you will be given zero for the assignment with no chance to resubmit, and the penalties can be worse than that). It’s your responsibility to know what plagiarism is. Do not rely on Turnitin to let you know if your essay is free of plagiarism. Turnitin identifies some cases of plagiarism, but by no means all cases.

14. Start early, and submit your essay well ahead of the deadline.

15. Talk to your tutors, lecturers, and classmates about your thoughts, plans, and research – we’re here to help, and we want to help you get the most out of this course. Use the online forums. Use office hours. We want you to do well. And the more you talk to us, the more we can help you.

16. Follow the essay-writing tips and guidelines presented to you in class. We’ve marked a lot of these essays, and we know what tends to work.

Word limit: 1000 words (excluding bibliography, including in text citations and any footnotes, 10% margin of error)

Value: 30% of final mark.

Presentation requirements: Typed, double-spaced. Submit on Turnitin. Do not include your name on anything you submit, only your U number. This allows us to mark anonymously

Estimated return date: 2 weeks after submission

Assessment Task 4

Value: 5 %
Due Date: 09/05/2024
Return of Assessment: 14/05/2024
Learning Outcomes: 2,3,4,5

An essay plan for the long essay

Write a brief plan outlining how you intend to structure and approach the final assessment.

Word limit: 500 words (including every word (i.e. including in-text references and any footnotes) after the title and before the bibliography). 10% margin of error.

Presentation requirements: APA referencing. Your essay must be typed and submitted through Turnitin on wattle. Do not include your name on your essay, only your u-number.

Deadline: Thursday the 9th of May 2024. 

Estimated return date: Tuesday the 14th of May 2024.

Value: 5% of your final mark.

Assessment Task 5

Value: 35 %
Due Date: 24/05/2024
Return of Assessment: 20/06/2024
Learning Outcomes: 2, 3, 4, 5

Long essay

Details of task:

The long essay should illustrate and explore your understanding of the societal and ethical issues pertaining to that week’s readings in more depth than the short essay. Consider using case studies or examples, in order to focus your discussion and arguments. Be sure to consider a variety of views on the issues raised by a rebuttal of some opposing views, not just arguments that support your views. Your long essay should not rely on solely on the tutorial readings and discussion, but should instead show evidence of extra research.

Assessment Rubric

Long essays use the same assessment rubric as the short essay, but also require:

·      a consideration of opposing viewpoints

·      more depth than the short essay

·      evidence of further research beyond the readings

In the long essay, be sure to pay extra attention to structure and synthesis, weaving the elements of your piece into a clear and engaging argument, relevant to the question.

Word limit: 2500 words (excluding bibliography, including any footnotes, 10% margin of error)

Value: 35% of final mark.

Presentation requirements: Typed, double-spaced. Submit on Turnitin. Do not include your name on anything you submit, only your U number. This allows us to mark anonymously

Due: Friday week 12 (24th of May 2024)

Estimated return date: 3 weeks after submission

Academic Integrity

Academic integrity is a core part of our culture as a community of scholars. At its heart, academic integrity is about behaving ethically. This means that all members of the community commit to honest and responsible scholarly practice and to upholding these values with respect and fairness. The Australian National University commits to embedding the values of academic integrity in our teaching and learning. We ensure that all members of our community understand how to engage in academic work in ways that are consistent with, and actively support academic integrity. The ANU expects staff and students to uphold high standards of academic integrity and act ethically and honestly, to ensure the quality and value of the qualification that you will graduate with. The University has policies and procedures in place to promote academic integrity and manage academic misconduct. Visit the following Academic honesty & plagiarism website for more information about academic integrity and what the ANU considers academic misconduct. The ANU offers a number of services to assist students with their assignments, examinations, and other learning activities. The Academic Skills and Learning Centre offers a number of workshops and seminars that you may find useful for your studies.

Online Submission

The ANU uses Turnitin to enhance student citation and referencing techniques, and to assess assignment submissions as a component of the University's approach to managing Academic Integrity. While the use of Turnitin is not mandatory, the ANU highly recommends Turnitin is used by both teaching staff and students. For additional information regarding Turnitin please visit the ANU Online website.

Hardcopy Submission

For some forms of assessment (hand written assignments, art works, laboratory notes, etc.) hard copy submission is appropriate when approved by the Associate Dean (Education). Hard copy submissions must utilise the Assignment Cover Sheet. Please keep a copy of tasks completed for your records.

Late Submission

Late submission of assessment tasks without an extension are penalised at the rate of 5% of the possible marks available per working day or part thereof. Late submission of assessment tasks is not accepted after 10 working days after the due date, or on or after the date specified in the course outline for the return of the assessment item. Late submission is not accepted for take-home examinations.

Referencing Requirements

Accepted academic practice for referencing sources that you use in presentations can be found via the links on the Wattle site, under the file named “ANU and College Policies, Program Information, Student Support Services and Assessment”. Alternatively, you can seek help through the Students Learning Development website.

Returning Assignments

Assignment marks and feedback for essays will be available on Wattle on Turnitin two weeks after the due date. Late assignments will not be marked within these timeframes. Our priority will be to mark the assignments that were handed in on time.

Extensions and Penalties

Extensions and late submission of assessment pieces are covered by the Student Assessment (Coursework) Policy and Procedure The Course Convener may grant extensions for assessment pieces that are not examinations or take-home examinations. If you need an extension, you must request an extension in writing on or before the due date. If you have documented and appropriate medical evidence that demonstrates you were not able to request an extension on or before the due date, you may be able to request it after the due date.

Resubmission of Assignments

If you feel like you have not been graded fairly, you may request a remark. Once your assignment is available on Turnitin, you have one week in which to request a formal remark if you so choose. When you get your assignment back, read through the comments and look at the mark. If you think your assignment deserves a higher mark, you should do the following things, in the following order:

1.    Arrange to meet with your tutor and discuss your mark (this must be done within one week of receiving your grade). Based on this discussion, your tutor may decide to adjust your grade, or you may gain an understanding of your existing grade that you accept.

2.    If, following this meeting, you are still not happy with your grade, please inform the convenor, and we will arrange for your essay to be re-marked anonymously by an independent assessor. The mark awarded by the second marker for your assessment becomes your final mark, regardless of whether it is higher, lower or the same as the original mark.

Privacy Notice

The ANU has made a number of third party, online, databases available for students to use. Use of each online database is conditional on student end users first agreeing to the database licensor’s terms of service and/or privacy policy. Students should read these carefully. In some cases student end users will be required to register an account with the database licensor and submit personal information, including their: first name; last name; ANU email address; and other information. In cases where student end users are asked to submit ‘content’ to a database, such as an assignment or short answers, the database licensor may only use the student’s ‘content’ in accordance with the terms of service — including any (copyright) licence the student grants to the database licensor. Any personal information or content a student submits may be stored by the licensor, potentially offshore, and will be used to process the database service in accordance with the licensors terms of service and/or privacy policy. If any student chooses not to agree to the database licensor’s terms of service or privacy policy, the student will not be able to access and use the database. In these circumstances students should contact their lecturer to enquire about alternative arrangements that are available.

Distribution of grades policy

Academic Quality Assurance Committee monitors the performance of students, including attrition, further study and employment rates and grade distribution, and College reports on quality assurance processes for assessment activities, including alignment with national and international disciplinary and interdisciplinary standards, as well as qualification type learning outcomes. Since first semester 1994, ANU uses a grading scale for all courses. This grading scale is used by all academic areas of the University.

Support for students

The University offers students support through several different services. You may contact the services listed below directly or seek advice from your Course Convener, Student Administrators, or your College and Course representatives (if applicable).
Dr Nathan Emmerich

Research Interests

Bioethics, Medical Ethics.

Dr Nathan Emmerich

By Appointment
Dr Nathan Emmerich

Research Interests

Dr Nathan Emmerich

By Appointment

Responsible Officer: Registrar, Student Administration / Page Contact: Website Administrator / Frequently Asked Questions