News | 22 May 2013

New Course: Medical Ethics and Justice in Literature & Film


New Fall Quarter, 2013 Seminar in Cowell College, UCSC

Listed in catalogue as Cowell 156M
Enrollment restricted to Juniors and Seniors or permission of Instructor

Tuesday and Thursday 6:00 – 7:45 PM, Cowell Academic, Room 223

Dawson S. Schultz, Ph.D., Instructor
Lecturer & Honorary Cowell Fellow, UCSC
Bioethics Committees, Santa Clara County Medical Association & Good Samaritan Hospital, San Jose or

Visiting Guest Faculty:

Steve Jackson, M.D.
Anesthesiologist and Co-Chair Bioethics Committee
Good Samaritan Hospital, San Jose

Richard Powers, M.D.
Director, Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and Co-Chair Bioethics Committee
Good Samaritan Hospital, San Jose

The course will approach literature and literary devices in their capacity to address the patient’s experience of illness, medical education and practice, and medical ethics and to understand and assess how considerations of justice impact these themes in medicine. Topics will include: Seeing the Patient as Text, Writing Personal and Patient Stories of Illness and Human Meaning, Medical Ethics As Narrative Reasoning and Discourse, “Working Up” An Ethics Case Formulation, Dynamics of the Patient (and Doctor’s) Experience of Illness (Should the doctor appropriately suffer the patient’s affliction?), and What is Just Health Care (and how does this consideration impact the above topics?). Particular issues raised by these topics will be examined and discussed in the context of case examples as presented in literature and film, e.g., informed consent, the doctor-patient relation, withdrawing vs. withholding life-sustaining treatment, organ transplantation, health care reform, rationing/social justice, etc.

In general, the seminar will respond to two fundamental and interrelated questions that face contemporary medical practice and medical ethics: 1) Given that individual treatment decisions are based upon art and science, how can providers and patients best translate, weigh, and balance biomedical knowledge and ethical knowledge from these different perspectives when trying to make a good and right treatment decision for “this” patient?, and 2) What role does justice play in the overall process when translating quandaries in medical ethics into medical practice? The course may also help to prepare pre-med students for the reading comprehension and writing sections of the MCAT.


Painting by Sir Luke Fildes.