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BITC301 Bioethics

Ethical issues in health care, medicine and biotechnology. Fundamental ethical concepts such as value of life, individual freedom, justice, cultural differences and universal moral values.

Is euthanasia morally justifiable? Should self-harm be medically treated? What is just healthcare? Why did wartime medical atrocities occur? The paper explores these questions and a wide range of other bioethical topics from the beginning of life to the end of life and from patient-physician relationships to global matters. It also examines the key bioethical principles and concepts such as value of life, informed consent, freedom, beneficence, justice, cultural diversity and universal morality.

Paper title Bioethics
Paper code BITC301
Subject Bioethics
EFTS 0.15
Points 18 points
Teaching period First Semester (On campus)
Domestic Tuition Fees (NZD) $913.95
International Tuition Fees (NZD) $5,314.50

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240 points (including 72 200-level points)
Schedule C
Arts and Music, Science

Suitable for third-year undergraduates or above of all disciplines, including sciences, humanities, social sciences and commerce.


Professor Jing-Bao Nie
Tel 03 471 6129

Teaching staff

Course Co-ordinator: Professor Jing-Bao Nie
Bioethics Centre Academic Staff

Paper Structure
The paper consists of 5 parts:
  • Foundation and Context
  • Healthcare Ethics
  • At the Beginning of Life
  • At the End of Life
  • Cross-Cultural and Global Issues
Teaching Arrangements

Lectures with plenty of class discussion, some films, documentaries and student presentation of readings.

Text books are not required for this paper. All of the readings are available on Blackboard.
Graduate Attributes Emphasised
Global perspective, Interdisciplinary perspective, Scholarship, Critical thinking, Cultural understanding.
View more information about Otago's graduate attributes.
Learning Outcomes
Students will have become familiar with the ethical issues involved in a range of bioethical topics and the key bioethical values or principles and their application and will have further cultivated moral sensitivity as well as abilities and skills of:
  • Critical thinking
  • Interdisciplinary dialogue
  • Identifying and analysing bioethical issues
  • Articulating thoughts and reasoning with evidence and coherent arguments

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Overview of the paper

Ethical issues in health care touch everybody. They are intellectually challenging and practically significant. Many of them are directly concerned with life and death. As an exciting new field that addresses these issues, bioethics is extremely multi-disciplinary, involving medicine, public health, science, law, philosophy, theology and religious studies, and social sciences. This paper explores a wide range of bioethical topics, from the beginning of life to the end of life and from patient-physician relationship to global matters, through such key ethical concepts and principles as dignity and value of life, beneficence and non-maleficence, individual freedom, social justice, cultural differences and universal moral norms.

  • Semester: 1
  • Coordinator: Jing-Bao Nie
  • Lectures: Monday, Wednesday, 4-5:30pm, venue to be confirmed
  • Tutorials: Tuesday 5-6pm (to be confirmed)
  • Assessment: 50% internal assessment, 50% exam

BITC 301 was a real eye-opener. I learnt about issues that I hadn't thought about in depth before, such as palliative care and the world population crisis.

The stimulating class discussions and the research essay on a topic of your own choice were great features of this paper. I would strongly recommend this paper to anyone who has an interest in the many ethical dilemmas facing us today.

– Lucy Harris, BITC 301 student in 2011

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First Semester

Teaching method
This paper is taught On Campus
Learning management system


Stream Days Times Weeks
A1 Monday 14:00-15:50 9-13, 15-16, 18-22
Thursday 14:00-15:50 9-13, 15-22