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Bioethical Dramas Course to Explore Medical Ethics and Pop Culture in the Spring Semester

Sam Scherbak ‘22

Web Developer

Merrimack College is offering a new undergraduate course for the spring 2022 semester called Bioethical Dramas that will explore ethical issues in medicine and their portrayal in contemporary culture. 

Bioethical Dramas will focus on two central questions asking how the practice of modern medicine impacts our lives and what portrayals of medical practice in popular culture reveal about how we view ourselves and others. Students will learn about current bioethical issues by reading philosophical texts and case studies, participating in experiential theater activities, and critically analyzing dramatic works in script and film. The course content will facilitate students’ ability to understand and evaluate the influence of the history and current state of medicine and biomedical research on the human condition. 

Bioethical Dramas is a four-credit course that satisfies the Arts & Literature (AL) requirement for the Liberal Studies (LS) core curriculum. The prerequisite for Bioethical Dramas is any 1000-level Philosophy (PHL) course. The class will be taught by Professor James Petty and Professor Lisa Fuller on Mondays and Wednesdays from 2 to 3:50 p.m. Bioethical Dramas is cross-listed in the Merrimack course catalog as both THR 3560 and PHL 3560 and is currently open for enrollment.

“I hope [Bioethical Dramas] garners interest among students, because I believe deeply that it’s the sort of course that exemplifies the best aspects of a Merrimack education—not only knowledge acquisition, but also an appreciation for how the subject material directly impacts the students themselves, and empowers them with the tools they’ll need to create the changes they wish to see in society,” says Professor Petty. “In other words, we want the course to promote both thought and action.” 

Students taking Bioethical Dramas can expect to discuss a number of controversial issues, such as: withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment, physician-assisted suicide, reproductive decision-making, the impacts of genertic testing, fair allocation of resources, structural racism and sexism in medical research, and the stigmatization of health problems. 

“The class will use drama exercises, movies and plays to give students an insight into medical ethics issues as they happen to people in real life,” says Professor Fuller. “I think the role-playing and character development will be a lot of fun! The class is intended for non-theater folks too, so no drama experience is necessary.”

Undergraduate students can sign up for Bioethical Dramas through the myMack Portal or reach out to their advisor for assistance. To find out more about the course, please contact Professor Petty at pettyj@merrimack.edu or Professor Fuller at fullerl@merrimack.edu.