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Determining The Rules: Applying Ethics In A Tissue Engineering Course

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2002 Annual Conference


Montreal, Canada

Publication Date

June 16, 2002

Start Date

June 16, 2002

End Date

June 19, 2002



Conference Session

Industry Participation and Ethics in BME

Page Count


Page Numbers

7.387.1 - 7.387.5



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Paper Authors

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Gary Bledsoe

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Session 2309

Determining the Rules: Applying Ethics in a Tissue Engineering Course

J. Gary Bledsoe Department of Biomedical Engineering Saint Louis University, St Louis, MO

As a part of a course in Tissue Engineering (TE), a three-lecture series of ethical discussions has been implemented. The three lectures are meant to give the course participants a brief background in ethical theory and practice, to discuss current ethical issues in medicine and medical research, and to implement a set of “ground rules” that the class must observe while designing a tissue engineering solution to a clinical problem as part of their course project. Four ethical bases are discussed including Deontology, Consequentialism, Natural Law, and Theology, but these are covered briefly in class because all the students in the TE have completed a course in ethics as required by Saint Louis University. Next, the course becomes very discussion oriented and covers several current topics in biomedical ethics. The topics are suggested by the participants and have included xenoplants, fetal tissue usage, stem cell research, cloning, corporate profit taking in medicine, animal rights, and healthcare access. Following the open discussion, “ground rules” are established.

Ethical Theory and Foundations

There exist a number of ethical theories upon which one could build a foundation of ethics. However, for this series of lectures, four theories have been chosen because they represent commonalities from the large number of course sections offered at Saint Louis University. Thus, the TE course can deal with the theory briefly, drawing on the common background of the course participants.

The first of the ethical theories discussed is deontology. Presented by Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) in several works, deontology is the moral theory that claims that some acts are morally obligatory regardless of their outcome on the happiness of those affected. With the literal meaning “duty theory”, deontology refers to a common set of moral prescriptions that can be recognized as duties1. For example, “One ought not lie or defraud others”; “One should help those in need but not make them dependent”; “One must develop one’s talents.” According to Kant these rules are reducible to one supreme principle called the “categorical imperative” and can be stated as “Treat all humans as ends in themselves having their own concerns and choices, and never merely as means to be manipulated for your own ends.” 2

Consequentialism and the sub-system, utilitarianism, look to the consequences or utility of the action on those affected by the action. In short, an act is morally right if and only if it maximizes the happiness of everyone affected with respect to all alternative acts. In mathematical terms, the principle of utility is as follows: from a set of P policies, choose the

Proceedings of the 2002 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference and Exposition Copyright  2002, American Society for Engineering Education

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Bledsoe, G. (2002, June), Determining The Rules: Applying Ethics In A Tissue Engineering Course Paper presented at 2002 Annual Conference, Montreal, Canada. 10.18260/1-2--10190

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