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Medical Ethics: Where Science and Politics Make History

Course enrollment will be available for this course once it is scheduled.

Course Description

Gender, racism, politics, health disparities. We are constantly bombarded with these headlines in the daily news cycle; but are we simply repeating history? How have we learned from the errors of our historical ways?

This course will investigate the intersectionality of STEM with other topics such as social injustice, personal autonomy, literary censorship, cultural climate, ethical responsibility, and politics. We will also discuss the role that these themes play in the progression of medicine and technology.

This course will be based on the book The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. Before 1951, the ability to grow cells derived from animal tissue remained elusive. This changed when an African American woman by the name of Henrietta Lacks was (unknowingly) biopsied for a painful tumor and later died. Cells derived from her cervical cancer were found to thrive in an artificial environment. This gave rise to the birth of biotechnology and the techniques learned from propagating these cells would eventually lead to advancements in finding a polio vaccine. Intimate in feeling, astonishing in scope, and impossible to put down, this text captures the beauty and drama of scientific discovery, as well as its human consequences.

At the conclusion of this course, students will be able to:

  1. Understand the history of medical research and bioethics related to the HeLa cells.
  2. Understand the consequential relationship between historical events and current issues
  3. Apply principles of ethics and respect in interaction with others.
  4. Utilize multiple thinking strategies to assess real-world problems, explore possible solutions and its consequences, and confidently make well thought out decisions
  5. Identify and understand the relationship between the sciences and other non-STEM disciplines.

Course prerequisites include high school biology and honors level English.

*Please note: This course has a supplemental fee of $200

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