Type of instruction




Part of degree program


Recommended in

Semesters 1-4

Typically offered in

Autumn/Spring semester

Course description

1. Introduction. What is bioethics? The scientific method. Abuses of biology. The importance of bioethics for the biosciences. Biological dimensions of ethics.

2. Ethics and Morality. Ethics and free will. Ethics and religion. Moral acts and ethical theory. Utilitarianism, scientism, deontology and other ethical theories. Can't we make moral judgements?

3. A Framework for Ethical Analysis. The common morality, ethical principles ethical matrix: well-being, autonomy, fairness.

4. Bioethics and Human Futures. Comparing developed and less developed countries: demography, food supplies, health, wealth, education and technology. Ethical action plans: neo- and anti-Malthusians. Ethical reasoning in formulating development policies.

5. Birth Control I: Abortion, infertility, assisted reproductive technologies.

6. Birth Control II: Prenatal and pre-implantation genetic diagnosis. Ethical issues of Human Genome Project. Managing genetic information. Danger of geneticization. Therapies for genetic diseases.

7. Stem Cells. Therapeutic cloning, research cloning. saviour siblings and designer babies. Genetic futures: genes and human behaviour, positive and negative eugenics.

8. Bioethics and Animals. Human uses of animals. Animal rights. Farm animals: nutrition, co-evolution, ecology, economics, cultural considerations. Taking life, vegetarianism and veganism. Animal use in sport, entertainment, and work.

9. Experiments on Animals. Aims and scientific rationale for animal experimentation. Origins of experimental physiology. Causal analogue models, hypothetical analogue models. Legislation for animal experimentation. Basic concepts: replacement, reduction and refinement. Permissions, ethical analysis.

10. Animals and Modern Biotechnology. Reproductive technologies: artificial insemination, multiple ovulation, embryo transfer. Genetic modification, cloning (somatic cell nuclear transfer), embryonic stem cells. Specific applications: disease models, toxicity testing, bioreactors, xenotransplantation. Antiallergenic pets. Reviving threatened species. Control of insects and pests.

11. Bioethics, Plants and the Environment. The First Generation of GM Crops from the point of view of farmers, consumers and plants. Dietary futures. Novel foods, functional foods. Pharmacogenetics. Genetically modified foods from crops in developing countries.

12. Environmental Sustainability. Biocentrism and ecocentrism. Anthropogenic impacts on the biosphere. Environmental and agricultural sustainability. The limits to growth.

13. Bioethics in Practice. Risk, risk assessment, risk management. The precautionary principle. Trust, trustworthiness, transparency, the Nolan-principles. Politics and the biosciences, Hungarian relevancies.

14. Bioethics in the Laboratory. The Mertonian norms. Social aspects of scientific research. Personal qualities of bioresearchers. Respect for the subject of study (human and non-human). The Nuremberg code. The professional, educational and social responsibilities of bioscientists.

  • Ben Mepham: Bioethics. Oxford University Press, 2005