Ethics in Public Health

Subject POPH90270 (2016)

Note: This is an archived Handbook entry from 2016.

Credit Points: 12.5
Level: 9 (Graduate/Postgraduate)
Dates & Locations:

This subject has the following teaching availabilities in 2016:

Semester 1, Parkville - Taught on campus.
Pre-teaching Period Start not applicable
Teaching Period 29-Feb-2016 to 29-May-2016
Assessment Period End 24-Jun-2016
Last date to Self-Enrol 11-Mar-2016
Census Date 31-Mar-2016
Last date to Withdraw without fail 06-May-2016

Timetable can be viewed here. For information about these dates, click here.
Time Commitment: Contact Hours: 30
Total Time Commitment:

170 hours

Prerequisites: None
Corequisites: None
Recommended Background Knowledge: None
Non Allowed Subjects: None
Core Participation Requirements:

For the purposes of considering request for Reasonable Adjustments under the Disability Standards for Education (Cwth 2005), and Student Support and Engagement Policy, academic requirements for this subject are articulated in the Subject Overview, Learning Outcomes, Assessment and Generic Skills sections of this entry.

It is University policy to take all reasonable steps to minimise the impact of disability upon academic study, and reasonable adjustments will be made to enhance a student's participation in the University's programs. Students who feel their disability may impact on meeting the requirements of this subject are encouraged to discuss this matter with a Faculty Student Adviser and Student Equity and Disability Support:


Prof Lynn Gillam


Currently enrolled students:

Future Students:

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
  • indentify 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 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

  • 10 minute class presentation reviewing and critically analysing a public health ethical issue reported in the media
    due in Week 5 (20%)
  • A Commentary paper responding to a set reading in the style of the American Journal of Bioethics Open Peer, 1500 words due in Week 9 (30%)
  • Essay, 2,500 words due during the University's Examination period (50%)
Prescribed Texts:

No prescribed texts. 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 fundamental debates in health care and public health
  • Attitudes comfortable with moral ambiguity and complexity
Related Course(s): Master of Public Health
Related Majors/Minors/Specialisations: Health Social Sciences

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