Long (5-6 page) Written Assignment
Due: March 22, at Noon (12pm)
For this assignment, you can choose one of two options. Both options are available to
OPTION 1: Research Ethics Cover Letter
After teaching this course several times, I have found that some students are very
uncomfortable with the philosophy essay format. Moreover, for many biology, science, or
nursing students in this course, you may never have taken a philosophy course before, and
may never take another philosophy course after biomedical ethics. So, this option is designed
to allow you to write in a format that may be more familiar to you, and may be helpful in
your future professional life. For this option, you are applying to a research ethics board for
research ethics approval under the Tri-Council Policy Statement on Research Involving
Human Beings. The familiar written format is a formal letter, demonstrating understanding
of both the Tri-Council Policy Statement, and of the central biomedical concepts of this
course: informed consent, respect for autonomy, fairness and equity, and privacy and
confidentiality. Your letter will apply for research ethics board approval based on a real or
imagined experiment involving human beings.
Format: 5-6 pages excluding header, double spaced, 12 point font. Begin with a standard
letter heading and greeting. (Perhaps addressed to “Research Ethics Board” at an imagined
hospital address, and “To Whom it May Concern”). The experiment should be described
briefly in no more than one paragraph. The bulk of your 5 pages should be taken up with
demonstrating (i) that you understand informed consent, respect for autonomy, fairness
and equity, and privacy and confidentiality and (ii) that the experiment meets these
requirements. In aid of (i), please use definitions for these concepts (paraphrased or quoted,
and correctly cited) wherever appropriate. Once a concept is defined, you will demonstrate
the depth of your understanding by showing how the experimental design considers them
appropriately. For example, informed consent is difficult if not impossible to achieve in
experiments involving patients in an emergency situation. Those in extreme amounts of
pain, or unable to breath, are not in a position to understand that an experiment is optional,
nor to make clear and unforced decisions. You are therefore advised to choose a clinical
setting for your experiment that will be compatible with informed consent, respect for
autonomy, fairness and equity, and privacy and confidentiality. If you choose an experiment
involving children, or patients with diminished capacities, you may also find the need to add
a discussion of competence.
Organization: For the Research Ethics Cover Letter, you are responsible for organizing
the material in a clear and logical manner. There will be significant marks allocated for clarity
including organization, grammar, and correct citation. You may find it helpful to use subheadings
in your letter, such as: (1) Experimental Design; (2) Informed Consent; (3) Respect
for Autonomy; (4) Fairness and Equity; and (5) Privacy and Confidentiality.
OPTION 2: Thesis Defense Essay
This option is available to anyone who is interested in writing a philosophy essay, or who
wants to write about one of the major controversies examined in this course. For this
option, you will write a philosophical thesis defense essay responding to one of the
1. Rachels and Callahan are in direct disagreement over the existence of a moral
difference between killing and letting die. Examine one argument that you take to be
the strongest argument put forward by Rachels, and one argument that you take to
be the strongest argument put forward by Callahan. Based on these two arguments,
what can you conclude about the moral permissibility of voluntary active euthanasia?
2. Marquis asserts that many theorists “believe that whether or not abortion is morally
permissible stands or falls on whether or not a fetus is the sort of being whose life it
is seriously wrong to end” (137). Marquis and Warren adopt this sort of strategy. In
contrast, Thomson and Sherwin argue that even once we have settled the question
of the moral status of the fetus, there is still a significant moral question regarding
the permissibility of abortion. Examine at least one argument relying on each
strategy. (That is, one of Marquis and Warren; one of Thomson and Sherwin.)
Which strategy do you find the most persuasive and why? (Note: this question does
NOT ask whether or not abortion is, all things considered, morally permissible.)
Format: 5-6 pages excluding header/cover page, double spaced, 12 point font. See Writing
Philosophy: A Guide for Canadian Students Chapter 4 for an explanation and overview of a thesis
Your paper must include:
• A clear statement of your thesis.
• An accurate summary of some of the relevant arguments or theories contained in
our assigned readings.
• An argument that includes your own evaluation of the subject matter of your paper. • Appropriate footnotes or in-text citations.
Your paper should not include: • Appeals to God, religious text, or religious belief.
• Excessive or inappropriate appeals to personal stories. While these can occasionally
be helpful, they are a weak form of argument from example, and often undermine
your argument rather than making it stronger.
Organization: Your thesis defense essay should be written in full paragraphs, not point
form. Headings/subheadings are not necessary, and do not count towards the overall length
of your paper. You are responsible for organizing the material in a clear and logical manner.
There will be significant marks allocated for clarity including organization, grammar, and
SUBMITTING YOUR ASSIGNMENT (for both Options):
• Please name your file as follows: Lastname.Firstname.A2
• If you are able to, please submit a hard copy of your essay • Please use a header or title page that includes: your name, your instructor’s name, and
the course number.