Credit points


Campus offering

No unit offerings are currently available for this unit



Teaching organisation

150 hours of focused learning

Unit rationale, description and aim

Health care professionals are required to protect the vulnerability of those persons for whom they care. In this unit, to ensure the wellbeing of your future patients or clients, you will build upon your understanding of the notions of human dignity and the common good, as well as interpret the notion of ethical integrity. You will gain an understanding of the principles of harm, benefit, respect for patient autonomy and justice. You will also develop your understanding of ethical issues raised by developments in the broader health care context, including professional governance and public health standards. To assist you in this endeavour, you will engage in both formal and informal debate on topics of ethical significance, such as those related to beginning and end-of-life decision-making, care of persons with chronic illness and disability, and concerns raised by the conduct of research on human subjects. In doing so, you will gain an understanding of the sources of ethical disagreement that characterise the contemporary liberal, multi-cultural and morally-pluralistic societies in which you will practice professionally. The aim of this unit is to enable you to draw upon the concepts and principles learned to ensure high standards of ethical conduct in your future practice.

Learning outcomes

To successfully complete this unit you will be able to demonstrate you have achieved the learning outcomes (LO) detailed in the below table.

Each outcome is informed by a number of graduate capabilities (GC) to ensure your work in this, and every unit, is part of a larger goal of graduating from ACU with the attributes of insight, empathy, imagination and impact.

Explore the graduate capabilities.

On successful completion of this unit, students should be able to:

LO1 - Define and interpret ethical values, standards, aims and commitments expressed within the professional-patient relationship; (GA 1, 2, 5) 

LO2 - Explain the requirements of the principles of health care ethics, codes of professional conduct, the duty of care, and the standards for conducting research on human subjects; (GA 1, 2, 5) 

LO3 - Analyse and debate the sources of ethical disagreement in a morally pluralistic and culturally diverse society; and (GA1, 2, 3, 4)  

LO4 - Distinguish and evaluate ethical issues arising within professional health care practice, and explain and defend justified responses to ethical dilemmas (GA 1, 2, 3, 4, 5)

Graduate attributes

GA1 - demonstrate respect for the dignity of each individual and for human diversity 

GA2 - recognise their responsibility to the common good, the environment and society 

GA3 - apply ethical perspectives in informed decision making

GA4 - think critically and reflectively 

GA5 - demonstrate values, knowledge, skills and attitudes appropriate to the discipline and/or profession 


Topics will include: 


  • Foundations of Health Care Ethics 
  • A brief overview of virtue, duty and consequences 
  • Human dignity and human rights  


  • Ethical Principles of Health Care 
  • Respect for human dignity 
  • Respect for human rights  
  • Respect for patient autonomy  
  • Beneficence and the duty of care 
  • Non-maleficence and negligence 
  • Justice, the distribution of health care resources 
  • Truth-telling  


  • Addressing Ethical Issues in the Health Care Context 
  • Understanding ethical disagreement: individual and culturally defined values and beliefs  
  • Conscientious objection  
  • Human vulnerability and advocacy 
  • Responsibilities to the environment 


  • Health Care Professionalism 
  • Codes of Ethics and Codes of Professional Conduct 
  • Standards of care 
  • Professional integrity  
  • Justice fairness  


  • Research Ethics 
  • International human rights conventions and principles governing research conducted upon human subjects 
  • National and local Human Research Ethics Committees 


  • Ethical practice  
  • Ethical considerations when engaging with communities 
  • ACU Community Engagement principles and values 


Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

This unit requires students to undertake 150 hours of focused learning to achieve the unit learning outcomes. It has two delivery patterns: a standard full-semester delivery pattern which is scheduled nationally; and an intensive delivery pattern which is scheduled off-shore. Learning associated with this unit for both full-semester and intensive delivery pattern incorporates face-to-face teaching activities (lectures and tutorials), online activities, preparation and generation of assessment items and self-directed study. Consistent with adult learning principles, the teaching and learning strategies used within these modes of delivery will provide students with knowledge and skills relevant to health care ethics in professional practice. These strategies will also support students in meeting the aim, learning outcomes and graduate attributes of the unit and the broader course learning outcomes. Learning and teaching strategies will reflect respect for the individual as an independent learner. Students will be expected to take responsibility for their learning and to participate actively with peers.  


Students at university are required to operate effectively as self-sufficient learners who drive their own learning and access the learning supports they require. To guide students in their learning, feedback is required to identify what is being done well, what requires additional work and to identify progress toward required learning outcomes. Located in the second year of the programme, this theory unit includes moderate face-to-face teaching hours and an increasing online component of learning to build life-long learning skills (the pattern of these teaching hours will vary between full semester and intensive delivery patterns). Lectures are utilised to convey content and its central principles while tutorials deliver interactive and student driven learning sessions which require an increasing reliance on students to extend their community of learners and increase self-reliance. Online materials provide students with the opportunity to drive the additional component of directed, self-motivated study they will require to successfully transition to life-long learners. 

Assessment strategy and rationale

A range of assessment items consistent with University assessment requirements and policy will be used to ensure students achieve the unit learning outcomes and attain the graduate attributes, including an argumentative essay and an exam based on a case studies provided to students in week 1 of the semester.

A formative online quiz for this unit will also be made available to students early in the unit delivery schedule to provide feedback on progress and guide unit learning. The quiz consists of sixty (60) Multiple choice questions designed to aid students in understanding the unit content in modules 1 to 4. The quiz will not contribute to the final unit grade – it is designed to assist students in the transition toward independent study and life-long learning.

Students will be required to attempt two summative assessments, one of which an argumentative essay and the other an examination on completion of scheduled classes. The argumentative essay will assist students in using their developing critical thinking skills to support a position they choose in an ethical scenario provided. Individual argumentative essays with reference lists are to be uploaded on a designated Turnitin link in LEO. The examination will allow students to demonstrate their knowledge and understanding of the content and its analysis as it applies to a case study. The examination engages students with the principles of health care ethics, codes of ethics and professional conduct relevant to a student’s own profession, and other ethical concepts and values addressed in this unit – all skills necessary for graduate practice.

In order to pass this unit, you are required to attempt the two (2) summative assessments with an overall minimum grade of 50% of the total mark. Your total mark will be an aggregate of the marks achieved in the argumentative essay and exam assessments. The assessment tasks for this unit are designed for you to demonstrate your achievement of each learning outcomes.

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

Assessment 1

Argumentative Essay

Enables students to develop and demonstrate their critical thinking skills


LO1 & LO2

GA1, GA2, GA3, GA4 

Assessment 2


Demonstration and analysis of the ways in which ethical concepts, principles and professional standards apply to issues arising in an ethics case study  


LO3 & LO4

GA1, GA2, GA3, GA5 

Representative texts and references

Atkins, K., de Lacey, S., & Britton, B. (2012). Ethics and law for Australian nurses (2nd ed.). Port Melbourne: CUP. Retrieved from:  

Barrett, D., Ortmann, L., Dawson, A., Saenz, C., Reis, A. & Bolan, G. (2016). Public health ethics: cases spanning the globe. Available at: 

Banks, S. & Gallagher, A. (2009). Ethics in professional life: Virtues for health and social care. New York: Palgrave Macmillan  

Beauchamp, T., & Childress, J. (2013). Principles of biomedical ethics (7th ed.). New York, NY: Oxford University Press. 


Berglund, C. (2012). Ethics for health care. (4th ed.). South Melbourne, Vic.: Oxford University Press. 


Butts, J. & Rich, K. (2016). Nursing ethics: Across the curriculum and into practice. (4th ed). Burlington MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning 


Dawson, A. (2011). Public health ethics: key concepts and issues in policy and practice. New York: CUP. Available at: 

Freegard, H. & Isted, L. (Eds.). (2012). Ethical practice for health professionals (2nd ed.). South Melbourne, Vic.: Cengage. 

Johnstone, M.J. (2016). Bioethics: A nursing perspective (6th ed.). Chatswood: Elsevier  

Kerridge, I., Lowe, M., & McPhee, J. (2013). Ethics and law for the health professions (4th ed.). Annandale, N.S.W.: The Federation Press. 


Morrison, E. & Furlong, B. (Eds.). (2013). Health care ethics: Critical issues for the 21st century (3rd ed.). Burlington, MA: Jones and Bartlett. 

Ozolins, J., & Grainger, J. (2015). Foundations of health care ethics: Theory to practice. Port Melbourne, Vic.: Cambridge University Press.  

Staunton, P. & Chiarella, M. (2017). Law for nurses and midwives (8th edn). Chatswood NSW: Elsevier 


Townsend, R. & Luck, M. (2013). Applied paramedic law and ethics: Australia and New Zealand. Available at: 

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