Procedures For Teachers

PrepPreparing for the lesson
StepsConducting the lesson
ExtensionAdditional Activities


Media Components

R&E videos connected to segments listed below.

Computer Resources

  • computers with Internet access
  • LCD projector and projection screen

The following nine resources are necessary for this lesson plan; the “additional resources” listed later will enrich the lesson to the extent that teacher and classroom time allow their use.

(These sites include many links to other resources and lists of additional recommended readings.)

    “Brain Gain”
    July 15, 2005
    Recent revolutionary breakthroughs in brain technology (neurotechnology/neuroscience) and the growing use of “smart pills” raise ethical concerns about the long-term effects on mental and physical health.“Drug Testing on Children”
    January 18, 2002
    The testing of new drugs and therapies on children raises ethical questions and points to a major issue: weighing the possible test benefits against the dangers to the participants who are too young to give informed consent.

    “Compassion Sabbath”
    June 15, 2001
    Through “Compassion Sabbath,” founded to improve end-of-life care in the United States, clergy are learning how to improve their ministry to the dying and to negotiate ethical and emotional issues associated with a “good death.”

    “Ethics of Clinical Trials”
    July 29, 2005
    Clinical trials of new drugs or medical treatments have significant implications for patients. But these trials cannot take place unless people are willing to participate. The challenge is to ensure that trials are conducted ethically.

    “Genetic Enhancement”
    August 17, 2007
    What if new possibilities in areas of gene therapy and treatment are used not only to cure but also to enhance physical and mental capabilities, or to enable parents to select the traits of their children? This medical breakthrough in genetics raises significant moral and ethical concerns.

    “Palliative and Hospice Care for Dying Children”
    September 7, 2001
    Fewer than 10 percent of children with life-ending chronic illnesses receive the end-of-life hospice care available for adults. The absence of such care influences families’ emotional experiences as they deal with the pain of a dying child and their grief.

    “Prolonging Life”
    May 21, 2004
    What should you do when someone you love is in what doctors call a persistent vegetative state? Remove the feeding tube or indefinitely keep alive someone doctors say will never recover? It is a moral dilemma facing and dividing some families.

    “Refusal to Treat”
    June 3, 2005
    In 2004, 14 states (of 46 with health care “conscience clauses”) proposed to expand the clauses not only to cover contraceptive services — even in the case of rape victims — but also to allow pharmacists to refuse to fill any prescription if it offends their moral convictions. Opponents say such legislation clearly violates a patient’s rights and sets a dangerous legal precedent.

    “What’s a Life Worth? End-of-Life Care”
    September 19, 2003
    Currently, 28 percent of Medicare’s budget is spent on reimbursements to people over the age of 65 in their last year of life — the bulk of which is spent in the last 30 days, amounting to about $75 billion. Can society afford to continue this kind of spending on costly and usually futile life-sustaining treatments for the elderly?


Print Resources

K├╝bler-Ross, Elizabeth. “On Death and Dying: What the Dying Have to Teach Doctors, Nurses, Clergy and Their Own Families.” JOURNAL FOR THE SCIENTIFIC STUDY OF RELIGION 11, no. 3 (Sep. 1972): 309-310

R&E NEWSWEEKLY 2004 VIEWER’S GUIDE. “Narrative Medicine and Ethics.” Pgs. 6-7. (This essay includes an extensive list of additional readings and resources as well as discussion questions.)

Media Resources

Web Resources






Teacher Preparation

Preview the lesson plan’s R&E videos and related online content before presenting them to your class. Bookmark relevant Web sites on each computer in your classroom, and/or create a handout that lists recommended sites and resources that supplement the lesson; or upload all links to an online bookmarking utility, such as, so that students can access the information on these sites. Make sure that your computer has the necessary media players, like RealPlayer or Windows Media Player, to show streaming clips (if applicable).


Introductory Activity: The Ethical Challenge
(one class period)

Divide students into small groups. Log on to and reproduce the following case studies (or find others related to the R&E episodes, and/or excerpt the main scenarios presented in the episodes):

Assign each group a case scenario (two or more groups may share the same one). Explain that the case scenarios represent a portion of the myriad ethical issues and concerns that emerge in the medical profession. If necessary, discuss the meaning of “ethics” and its significance in the medical field. Instruct the groups to read and analyze their respective scenarios to determine the inherent ethical challenges. (The entire class may work together on reviewing and discussing one or two of the cases, if desired.)

Ask students to report on their initial responses to the case scenarios. Pose some or all of the following questions:

  • In analyzing the cases, what have you discovered about medical decision making?
  • What ethical concerns, questions, and issues come into play when having to make such decisions?
  • What are the pro and con arguments that emerge from the scenarios?
  • What is your best idea right now for how to deal with the cases presented? Why would you take them on in this way?

In this discussion, students weigh the ethical complexities, as well as personal assumptions that figure in medical decision making.

Activity 1: Structuring Thoughts About Ethics
(two class periods)

Introduce students to the concepts outlined in “A Framework for Ethical Thinking” at Focus on the sections that define ethics, what makes identifying ethical standards difficult, meshing approaches, and ethical decision making.

Distribute and introduce students to the Five Sources of Ethical Standards. Have students revisit the case scenarios to determine which approach(es) they used to address the ethical question and whether the approach(es) match the situation presented.

Show students the R&E video “Medical Ethics” to immerse them in prominent ethical issues and concerns that emerge in the medical field. Have them jot down the key issues to discuss after they have viewed the video.

Activity 2: Taking the Ethics Challenge
(two to three class periods)

Divide students into pairs or small groups, depending on the number of students in the class. Assign one R&E video segment to each team (for fewer students, assign two segments with similar themes, where possible). Distribute Taking the Ethics Challenge graphic organizer; students will complete Part I as they view the film. (Or, students may watch the video first, without taking notes.)

After the film, ask teams to analyze the ethical concerns and questions that arise. They will elaborate on these in Part II of Taking the Ethics Challenge. Have them use A Framework for Ethical Decision Making to create an outline of ethical standards for the issue noted. It is possible that team members will have conflicting points of view, which is appropriate. Have each team briefly introduce and discuss the issue with the class and note the differences of perspective that arose in deciding on ethical standards. Students might also note how they combined perspectives to ensure a unanimous result.

Culminating Activity: Creating an Ethical Standard
(two to three class periods)

Building on the Activity 2 assignment and teamwork, have the groups revise their ethical standards outline and then write an ethical standards statement that addresses the issues presented in the film they viewed and that they would submit to a national or international policy-making ethics committee. Students might need to conduct additional research; if possible, they might contact medical ethics professors or ethics professionals at local hospitals.

Once students have completed their standards, allow other groups to review them, making sure that each standard set is accompanied by an overview of the ethical issues and debates at hand.

Students can submit their standards to a local hospital’s ethics committee or to a university hospital’s medical ethics program.

Extension Activities

Students can: