Ethics in Public Health

Subject POPH90207 (2014)

Note: This is an archived Handbook entry from 2014.

Credit Points: 12.50
Level: 9 (Graduate/Postgraduate)
Dates & Locations:

This subject is not offered in 2014.

Time Commitment: Contact Hours: 24 hrs; One 2 hour seminar per week
Total Time Commitment:

120 hours





Recommended Background Knowledge:

This subject is intended to be accessible to students who have no specific background knowledge related to ethics or public health. Generic academic skills are required.

Non Allowed Subjects:


Core Participation Requirements:

For the purposes of considering request for Reasonable Adjustments under the Disability Standards for Education (Cwth 2005), and Students Experiencing Academic Disadvantage Policy, academic requirements for this subject are articulated in the Subject Description, Subject Objectives, Generic Skills and Assessment Requirements of this entry.
The University is dedicated to provide support to those with special requirements. Further details on the disability support scheme can be found at the Disability Liaison Unit website.



Academic Programs Office
Melbourne School of Population and Global Health
Tel: +61 3 8344 9339
Fax: +61 3 8344 0824

Subject Overview:

This subject introduces students to the study of bioethics, theoretical frameworks of public health ethics and some major ethical issues relevant to public health and healthcare provision. It explores these issues from the perspective of individuals, communities and those concerned with healthcare policy and practice.

Topics include: introduction to ethical theory; justice and health (e.g. allocation of healthcare resources, human research, health as human right, global health justice, disability); the individual within society (donation and transplantation of human biological materials, immunization, pandemics, markets in healthcare); choices at the extremes of life (e.g. abortion, population growth control, euthanasia). Students will be introduced to theoretical frameworks for thinking about moral problems and learn moral concepts and approaches for the analysis of key debates. Theoretical concepts will include: moral status, moral intuition, human dignity, futility, autonomy, justice, solidarity, and universalism in bioethics.

Learning Outcomes:

The broad goals of this subject are to

  • stimulate and broaden moral imagination.
  • explore other points of view
  • identify and challenge moral intuitions
  • develop more reflective and informed moral commitments

It is intended that after completing this subject students will

  • Understand key concepts and approaches in public health ethics
  • Appreciate the theoretical foundations of these concepts and approaches
  • Be aware of the complexities of interpreting and using these concepts.
  • Be able to use these concepts and approaches to perform an ethical analysis of health practice and policy
  • Be familiar with the academic literature relevant to key debates and use it in an informed and critical way
  • Understand how to reach conclusions in ethical analysis and how to make sound arguments about ethical issues
  • Be aware of major areas in health care and public health which are ethically contentious
  • Be able to engage in ethical debate on these contentious matters, using key concepts and approaches and with reference to the current literature
  • A Critical analysis of a public health ethical issue reported in the media, 750 words, with participation in peer review of another student's paper due in Week 5 (20%)
  • A Commentary paper responding to a set reading in the style of the American Journal of Bioethics Open Peer Commentary system, 1500 words due in Week 9 (30%)
  • Essay, 2,500 words due during the University's Examination period (50%)
Prescribed Texts:

No prescribed text. Students will have access to electronic copies of relevant readings.

Breadth Options:

This subject is not available as a breadth subject.

Fees Information: Subject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date
Generic Skills:

Students undertaking this subject should acquire:

  • Skills in ethical reasoning and analysis
  • Knowledge of the key ethical debates in public health
  • Attitudes comfortable with moral ambiguity and complexity
Related Course(s): Master of Health Social Sciences
Master of Public Health
Related Majors/Minors/Specialisations: Health Social Sciences
Public Health
Public Health

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