Possible Paper Topics

Pick an issue question and write an argument in response.

  1. Abortion: Is abortion moral? Should it be banned? Should parents be required to consent to abortions by their minor children? Should it be OK for states to require abortion recipients to wait a period of time before receiving the abortion?
  2. AIDS: Should the U.S. be doing more to fight the worldwide spread of HIV/AIDS? Are current patent laws adequate for dealing with the problem? Should the U.S. or NY State pass laws requiring HIV carriers to inform partners of their HIV status? Did Brazil do the right thing in breaking drug patents to fight AIDS?
  3. Informed Consent: Is the “reasonable patient” standard[1] adequate for informed consent? Would a “professional” standard[2] be better? How can we adequately define patient competence? When is a patient competent to make medical decisions? Should a patient’s treatment refusal ever be considered evidence of incompetence? How should the doctor define his/her “therapeutic privilege”[3] to withhold information from patients? How—if at all—should the privilege be restricted?
  4. Assisted Suicide: Should the U.S. pass a law permitting assisted suicide? Should NY State? If so, should it be modeled on the Dutch or Oregon law? Is the Dutch law adequate for protecting patients from involuntary euthanasia? Is the Oregon law ethical? Should the OR law be modified to permit patients who are not dying to get lethal prescriptions? Do human beings have the right to die? Is the “slippery slope” argument against stem cell research a good argument?
  5. Right to Die: Should NY State permit proxies to end hydration and nutrition care for another patient? How should futility[4] be defined in a medical context? Which forms of euthanasia are ethical and which are not?
  6. Confidentiality: How far should confidentiality extend? When should doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals violate this value?
  7. Stem Cell Research: Is the destruction of embryos as performed in stem cell research ethical? Is the Bush approach to stem cell research ethically sound? Should new limits be placed on stem cell research?
  8. Money in Health Care: Should the U.S. have a single-payer health care system? Does the current system of health care do enough? If not, what is it missing? Should health care resources be rationed at the national or state level? Should the nation be the central purchaser of all health care resources? Is the new Medicare drug benefit a good thing?
  9. Theory in Bioethics: What ought to be the fundamental principles of bioethics? Is the primacy of autonomy a good thing? What is a disease? What is health?
  10. Additional Topics: Check out the blog for writeups on smoking, codes of ethics (for doctors as well as nurses), stem cells, pharmacists’ rights, patient privacy, animal rights, abortion, and euthanasia.

[1] The reasonable patient standard requires that patients be given all information that a reasonable patient would need in order to make a medical decision.
[2] This standard requires that patients be given all information that is currently considered relevant by the medical profession.
[3] This is a doctor’s ability to withhold information from a patient when s/he feels it would harm the patient.
[4] Futility occurs when a treatment would fail to improve the patient’s condition.


Filed under: Bioethics, Uncategorized