Dr Tom Kerns
North Seattle Community College


Course Requirements


These are some of the things you will need to do if this course is to be a meaningful one for you:

Required reading for the course includes:

  • Lisa Belkin, First Do No Harm, Fawcett Books
  • Freeman & McDonnell, Tough Decisions: Cases in Medical Ethics, Oxford University Press (second edition, 2001)
  • Coughlin & Soskolne (eds), Case Studies in Public Health Ethics, American Public Health Association
  • David Feldshuh, Miss Evers' Boys, Dramatists Play Service Inc
  • Kerns, Environmentally Induced Illnesses: Ethics, Risk Assessment and Human Rights, McFarland
  • Kerns, Jenner on Trial: The Ethics of Vaccine Research in the Age of Smallpox and the Age of AIDS, University Press of America (full text available on the web)
  • Henrik Ibsen (Arthur Miller adaptation), Enemy of the People, Penguin Press
  • The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, The Nuremberg Code, The World Health Organization's International Ethical Guidelines for Biomedical Research Involving Human Subjects, and several other articles and documents that will be made available online
  • online mini-lectures, etc.

Required writing for the course includes:

  • writing and posting answers to Study Questions for each assigned text
  • writing and posting your reflections on Discussion Questions for each text
  • participating fully in online discussions of the issues raised in class
  • completing two self evaluations of your work in the course, one at midterm and one due on the last day of the quarter
  • short one page papers as assigned
  • write and post a research paper on a topic of your choosing

General expectations

  • Regular and substantial (5-7 days per week) participation in online discussions
  • Completion of all online exercises and assignments
  • Reading the assigned original sources
  • Reading the online mini-lectures
  • Writing answers to book study questions and posting them to the online classroom
  • Prosecuting an individual research project and presenting it online to the class
  • Personal participation and engagement in the study of ethics in medicine
  • Coursework will probably require about twenty hours per week, and perhaps more

Approximate weekly schedule

  • Our weeks this quarter will begin on Thursday mornings and end on the next Wednesday evening at 10pm
  • Each week, as a rule, there will be the following three deadlines:
    1. The assigned reading must be completed, and the Study Questions completed and posted into the classroom, before the end of the week.
    2. The first posting of your responses to the Discussion Questions must be completed as early in the assignment period as possible.
    3. The discussion of the book, of the SQs, and the DQs must all be begun early in the assignment period so the discussions can be completed before Wednesday 10pm

Methods and materials for evaluation

General grading policy

  • Grading, to put it simply, is based entirely on your work and achievement in the course. This includes items such as
  • Examinations (midterm and final)
  • Full participation in online discussions and case studies
  • Completion of all online exercises and assignments
  • Writing and posting complete answers to book study questions
  • Quality of the individual research project that is posted to the class
  • Personal participation in the study
  • A large part of my assigning your grade relies on information you provide me in your self-evaluation for the course. See the Self Evaluations homepage for details.


  • We will have a mid-term exam and a final exam, each exam covering approximately half of the course. The exams will be primarily essay exams and will require that you understand and be conversant with both the factual and the conceptual material that we've covered
  • Make-ups on exams will not be allowed (except in special circumstances and only if you make arrangements with me before the exam is given)
  • (Here is a copy of the final final exam that all students will be required to pass before being granted their AA degree...)


  • We will be using the FirstClass software package as our online classroom software. You will need to download a small piece of client software from our North Seattle Community College server in order to access our classroom. Once you are registered for the course you will receive instructions for downloading the FirstClass software.
  • Spring quarter begins April 4 and ends June 16th
  • last date to register: April 4
  • online classroom opens: April 4
  • instruction begins: April 7

Nota Bene

  • Studies show that most students who fail (or do not complete) online courses do so because they do not form the habit early on of logging in to the class every day. If you miss more than a day or two you can get behind in the course and it then becomes very difficult to catch up
  • The American philosopher William James has a beautiful and famous chapter On Habit, and how the formation of useful habits can work for our benefit, in his book, Principles of Psychology. He also has a nice essay on the power of habit in a book titled Talks for Teachers. (These are not assigned readings, but you may well find them meaningful.)

I hope that, besides the work you do for a good evaluation in this course, your work will also pay off in making the course enjoyable (though perhaps difficult), and highly meaningful for you.