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College Preparation Program: IN FOCUS Seminar


On a seemingly daily basis, we are confronted by stories in the media that focus our attention on various issues in bioethics. Furthermore, many of these issues stand powerfully at the center of our political discourse. Some of these questions result from the development of new technologies – when does life begin, when does it end, when should it end? Other questions relate to the increasing cost of medical care – who should receive a heart transplant, what is our responsibility to the millions of individuals who do not have health insurance, should medical resources be allocated on the basis of age? And then there are issues specific to the doctor/patient relationship – what should doctors tell and not tell patients, how much confidentiality should be protected by the doctor/patient relationship? In this thought-provoking seminar, students will expand their ability to analyze the ethical dimensions of these challenging social issues.

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  • Dates: July 3–14, 2017
  • Instructor: Professor Mark Sheldon, Assistant Dean Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, Distinguished Senior Lecturer, Department of Philosophy, Medical Humanities and Bioethics, Feinberg School of Medicine
  • Enrollment Capacity: 24


The seminar will consist of discussion primarily of a variety of important and timely readings. There will also be brief lectures for the purpose of providing a context for the discussion. Since the topics considered will be intellectually, emotionally, and psychologically complex, it will be important to have time to reflect thoughtfully on the issues, to examine a variety of perspectives, and to develop the skill of listening carefully to what others have to say.


The seminar has no particular objective other than enabling the participants to develop insight into and appreciation for the way philosophical analysis and argument can contribute significantly to clarifying the ethical and conceptual issues in these very complex matters.


The seminar is appropriate for high school students who are interested in philosophy, medicine and public policy. No previous knowledge with any of the topics is required, and one does not have to be focused on medicine as a career. The topics under consideration have implications for all members of society.

A Typical Classroom Session

Each day will be a mix of brief lectures, extensive discussions, film clips, and small group (two or three students per group) presentations. The challenge for each group is to present an analysis of a case relevant to the topic, ultimately working together as a hospital ethics committee would, presenting and defending the group’s resolution of the case to the seminar at large.

While the sessions on the Evanston campus will consist of half days (9:30am-12:45pm), allowing for group presentations and permitting the different groups to prepare for their presentations, other days will be full days when a field trip is appropriate, for instance to the Museum of Science and Industry or the International Museum of Surgical Science.

Resources and Materials

Students may be asked to purchase one book, but it is more likely that the relevant readings will be available on line for download. The readings will be accessible readings from philosophy, medicine and law journals.