BSc Psychology

Year of entry: 2020

Course unit details:
Bioethics: Contemporary Issues in Science and Biomedicine

Unit code UCIL21202
Credit rating 10
Unit level Level 2
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Offered by School of Biological Sciences
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


Should active euthanasia be prohibited? What makes life valuable? Should we be attempting to eradicate disability? Should we prohibit genetic modification or gene editing? Is it morally acceptable to use animals and humans for scientific research?

Bioethics identifies, defines and examines ethical questions raised by developments in biological and medical research, drawing on a range of disciplines in terms of approach, methodologies and knowledge.

The unit consists of focused, engaging and accessible online material, to guide you through a variety of, often controversial, bioethical questions, supported by informal discussion seminars.

The unit benefits from the exchange of ideas between students and teachers from different disciplines.




Students from the Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health, with the exception of Psychology, are not eligible to take this unit.

UCIL units are designed to be accessible to undergraduate students from all disciplines.

UCIL units are credit-bearing and it is not possible to audit UCIL units or take them for additional/extra credits. You must enrol following the standard procedure for your School when adding units outside of your home School.

If you are not sure if you are able to enrol on UCIL units you should contact your School Undergraduate office. You may wish to contact your programme director if your programme does not currently allow you to take a UCIL unit.

You can also contact the UCIL office if you have any questions.

This unit is also available with a different course unit code. To take a UCIL unit you must choose the unit with a UCIL prefix.



To provide a stimulating, engaging and structured overview of ethical issues in the life sciences.  To enable students to develop their knowledge of this area and their skills in analysis and critical thinking and enable them to explore these issues with confidence to come to a position on them that they can justify and defend convincingly.

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of the unit, you will be able to:

      Identify a range of contemporary ethical issues in science and biomedicine

      Identify approaches to present clear bioethical arguments and justify and defend the position taken on these issues

      Identify organisation and presentation skills to prepare and defend an argument

      Identify organisation and presentation skills to research and prepare an assessed reflective diary




Topics covered in previous years:

  •  Introduction to ethics and bioethics
  •  Doing bioethics skills of critical thinking and analysis
  •  What makes life valuable?
  •  The status of the embryo and implications for abortion
  •  Autonomy, consent and confidentiality
  • Mental capacity and consent
  • Ethical issues in pregnancy and reproduction
  • Resource allocation
  • Euthanasia and assisted dying
  • Genetic storage and biobanks
  • Consent and genomics
  • Genetic manipulation and enhancement including GM crops
  • Research ethics


Teaching and learning methods

The course consists of focused, engaging and accessible online material designed by bioethical experts to guide you through a variety of, often controversial, bioethical questions.  Informal seminars support this online material and provide the opportunity to discuss these bioethical questions and develop your skills on analysis and critical thinking with the guidance of expertise in this area.  

Employability skills

Analytical skills
Group video presentation and reflective diary require analysis of available information related to topic areas.
Group/team working
Group video presentation in teams of 7-10 students.
Group video presentation is viewed by all participants in the unit and should be interesting. Reflective diary allows for both innovation and creativity
Group video presentation will need people to demonstrate leadership to ensure that it is completed in an efficient and timely manner.
Project management
Group video presentation is a project undertaken over a period of weeks by a small group of students.
Oral communication
Students encouraged to ask and answer questions during lectures. Group video presentations.
Problem solving
Understanding information in relation to lecture and online material topics, presentation area and reflective diary require an ability to assimilate information and problem solve in the context of the question being asked.
Group video presentation and reflective diary require independent research of topic areas.
Written communication
Reflective diary

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Written exam 30%
Written assignment (inc essay) 35%
Oral assessment/presentation 35%

Feedback methods

There will be feedback after the exam in week 4.  There will be an opportunity to submit a practice 500 word reflective learning diary in week 4 of the unit for formative feedback.  The oral presentation will receive peer evaluation, verbal generic feedback and written feedback on individual group performances. The final reflective learning diary will receive written feedback.


Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Assessment written exam 0.5
Lectures 18
Independent study hours
Independent study 81.5

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Caroline Bowsher Unit coordinator

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