This unit examines the biblical perspective on the value of human life and health care, considers the basic principles of Christian health ethics, the primacy of the person and the duty of reasonable care at every stage of human life and moral principles relevant to the identity of Catholic hospitals. Topics covered include abortion, euthanasia, the withholding of treatment, HIV/AIDS, rape, the anencephalic foetus, transplants of donated organs, human research, the allocation of scarce resources, triage and other issues raised by the environment, and modern medical technology: prenatal diagnosis, treatments for infertility, reproductive technology and embryonic stem cell research.

Unit code: DP9060C (Approved)

Points: 24.0

Unit level: Postgraduate Elective

Unit discipline: Pastoral Theology and Ministry Studies

Proposing College: Catholic Theological College

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Learning outcomes


Articulate an understanding of how the Catholic bioethical principles are based on insights drawn from biblical texts, the Christian tradition, Catholic teaching and sound philosophical reasoning for the good of the human person;


Engage critically with arguments to support a Christian understanding of Bioethics and Healthcare Ethics in response to its secular critics;


Analyse and evaluate arguments for the moral inviolability of human life from conception to death, including cases of voluntary euthanasia;


Demonstrate a familiarity with the general ethical responsibilities of healthcare professionals in their dealings with patients and/or their children, born or unborn;


Apply Catholic ethical principles in a critical and nuanced manner to frequently occurring cases in the domain of assisted reproductive technology, pregnant women whose unborn children may be affected by a congenital abnormality, and extremely low birth weight newborns;


Present talks on any of the topics taught to interested parishioners, teachers or senior schools’ students;


Demonstrate a competency which would enable them to serve as a member of the Clinical Ethics Committee of a Catholic Hospital.

Unit sequence

DT2000C Fundamental Moral Theology or DT8001C Catholic Theological Ethics or Equivalent Prohibited combinations: This unit is not available to students who have previously completed DT2060C/DT3060C


Lectures, tutorials

Indicative Bibliography

  • Ashley, Benedict M., Jean de Blois, and Kevin D. O’Rourke. Health Care Ethics: A Theological Analysis. 5th ed. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 2006.
  • Beauchamp Tom L. & James F. Childress. Principles of Biomedical Ethics. 7th edition. Oxford/New York: Oxford University Press, 2013.
  • Catholic Health Australia. Code of Ethical Standards for Catholic Health and Aged Care Services in Australia. Red Hill, ACT: Catholic Health Australia, 2001.
  • Ford, Norman. The Prenatal Person: Ethics from Conception to Birth. Oxford: Blackwell, 2002.
  • Geach, Mary, and Luke Gormally, eds. Human Life, Action and Ethics: Essays by G. E. M. Anscombe. Exeter, UK: Imprint Academic, 2005.
  • Gill, Robin. Health Care and Christian Ethics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006.
  • Kuhse, Helga, and Peter Singer. Bioethics: An Anthology. 2nd ed. Oxford: Blackwell, 2006.
  • Morris, John F., ed. Medicine, Healthcare and Ethics: Catholic Voices. Washington: The Catholic University of America Press. 2007.
  • Morrison, Eileen E., ed. Healthcare Ethics: Critical Issues for the Twenty-First Century. 2nd ed. Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett, 2009.
  • Shannon, Thomas, and Nicholas Kochler. An Introduction to Bioethics. 4th ed. New York: Paulist Press, 2009. (recommended for purchase)
  • Somerville, Margaret A. Death Talk: the case against euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide. Montreal, Quebec: McGill-Queen's University Press, 2001.
  • Taylor, Carol R., and Roberto Dell’Oro, eds. Health and Human Flourishing. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 2006.


Type Description Word count Weight (%)
Seminar or Tutorial

Seminar presentation (1,500 word equivalent)

1500 20.0

3000 word essay

3000 40.0

3000 word essay

3000 40.0

Unit approved for the University of Divinity by John Capper on 20 Jul, 2017

Unit record last updated: 2019-09-25 14:19:57 +1000