University of Malta

Study-Unit Description
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TITLE Ethical Issues in Genetics

LEVEL 05 - Postgraduate Modular Diploma or Degree Course


DEPARTMENT Moral Theology

DESCRIPTION The New Genetics has created considerable concern from issues of eugenics to whether families have a right to choose the perfect baby. Conversely the medical profession debate whether these objectives should be within their ethos. Clearly there are advantages to genetic engineering but the limits are unclear. Moreover, genetic screening of populations and testing of individuals can lead countries to base allocation of resources based on genetic choices. A clear example of this is the paradigm created by WHO towards screening for thalassaemia in Cyprus.

Whilst Malta participates actively at European level in producing documents, there is still a gap in local legislation to cover research. Questions still abound, like who will handle the large amount of counselling when tests such as the Breast Cancer (BRCA), and Colon cancer test become readily available, and perhaps over-the-counter. Certainly there is a role for the primary care health care professionals, who are strategically placed and numerous enough. Nevertheless, the implications of these tests are still highly discussed.

Families may be affected by genetic choices. This is a great controversial area and pragmatists have forwarded suggestions that parents should have a right to make choices for better genetic characteristics, as they would choose better schools etc. This of course created great controversy about the dignity and nature of man and indeed whether the human genome can be manipulated through this sort of selection.

Whilst these debates are ongoing, European and other international organisations agree on general points and have published documents in this regard. Yet the debate goes on and certainly the future will see more advances in this important area.

Learning Objectives

By the end of the course the student should:
a) have a clear knowledge of the potential use of genetic engineering technology and the ethical implications of somatic and germ line enhancement and cures.
b) have an appreciation of the value, advantages and potential abuses of genetics screening and genetic tests.
c) have a knowledge of the ethical considerations of genetic choices for parents and the involvement of primary care physicians.
d) have a knowledge about genetic research in Europe
e) have an appreciation of the various philosophical approaches to understand genetics.

Reading List

- BRITISH MEDICAL ASSOCIATION, Human Genetics. Choice and Responsibility, Oxford, 1998
- BURLEY J & Harris J, A Companion to Genethics, Blackwell Publishing, Oxford, 2004.
- Council of Europe (CDBI)
- EUROPEAN COMMISSION, 25 Recommendations on the ethical, legal and social implications of genetic testing, EC Science & Society, Brussels, 2004.
- GOSDEN R, Designing Babies, W.H. Freeman, New York, 1999.
- HARPER P & CLARKE A, Genetics Scoiety and Clinical Practice, Bios Scientific Publishers, London, 1997.
- KEVLES D, In the Name of Eugenics, Harvard, 1985.
- MCGEE G, The Perfect Baby. A Pragmatic Approach to Genetics, New York, London, 1997.
- UNESCO, Universal Declaration on the Human Genome and Human Rights, (Unesco Website)
- WALTERS L & Palmer J, The Ethics of Human Gene Therapy, Oxford, 1997


Assessment Component/s Resit Availability Weighting
Assignment Yes 100%

LECTURER/S Pierre Mallia

The University makes every effort to ensure that the published Courses Plans, Programmes of Study and Study-Unit information are complete and up-to-date at the time of publication. The University reserves the right to make changes in case errors are detected after publication.
The availability of optional units may be subject to timetabling constraints.
Units not attracting a sufficient number of registrations may be withdrawn without notice.
It should be noted that all the information in the study-unit description above applies to the academic year 2017/8, if study-unit is available during this academic year, and may be subject to change in subsequent years.
21st Annual Augustinian Lecture 2017
The 21st Annual Augustinian Lecture 2017 will be celebrated on the 5th and 6th December 2017 with two lectures delivered by Rev. Prof. Theodore Dieter.

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Deadline to present dissertation proposals for next Faculty Board is Wednesday 29th November 2017 at 1700hrs

Augustinian Institute Academic Year 2017-18

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