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HLSC220 Health Care Ethics

Teaching organisation

150 hours of focused learning.

Unit rationale, description and aim

It is a requirement that all healthcare professionals understand ethical concepts and principles. Health care professionals encounter ethical situations and problems in their day-to-day practice. Insightful ethical decision making and problem solving are essential to fostering a caring response to ethical problems. Skills developed in this unit assist students to start building knowledge of ethical theory and practice which should guide their future practice as a health care professional.

This unit provides the opportunity for paramedics to examine the ethical aspects of the complex personal, interpersonal, professional, institutional, and social issues that arise in contemporary health care delivery. Deciding on the appropriate responses to such issues often involves making a choice between competing and compelling positions. Students will evaluate strategies, including the use of ethical theories and principles that can be used to make, and to justify, principled choices in health care delivery. The unit will provide the opportunity to apply a critical thinking approach to ethical issues and influences in paramedic practice and to demonstrate a commitment to professional, ethical and legal standards. This unit will also explore the role of the paramedic in delivering ethical, person-centred, culturally sensitive and globally informed health care.

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 - Describe how principled behaviour develops in health care professionals; (GA3) 

LO2 - Analyse principled behaviour in the professional domain; (GA3) 

LO3 - Analyse critically local and global ethical issues that impinge on health care professionals’ practice; (GA1, 4) 

LO4 - Analyse factors that influence individual values and beliefs of health consumers and colleagues; (GA1) 

LO5 - Compare and contrast strategies that health professionals apply in making principled choices in complex contemporary environments; (GA3, 8) 

LO6 - Evaluate and apply ethical theory and principles as guides for principled behaviour by health care professionals. (GA3) 

Graduate attributes

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

GA3 - apply ethical perspectives in informed decision making

GA4 - think critically and reflectively 

GA8 - locate, organise, analyse, synthesise and evaluate information 

CAA Competency Standards: Learning Outcomes:

The Council of Ambulance Authorities Paramedic Professional Competency Standards developed in this unit are: 

1.a.1 Practice within the legal and ethical boundaries of their profession  1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

1.a.2 Practice in a non-discriminatory manner 4, 6 

1.a.3 Understand the principle and application of the concept of confidentiality 1, 2, 3 

1.a.4 Understand the principle of consent as it applies in the community emergency health setting 3, 4, 5

1.a.6 Provide care that is consistent with the principles of beneficence and non-maleficence 1, 2, 3, 6

1.a.7 Exercise a professional duty of care  1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 


Topics will include: 

  • Guides for principled behaviour for health care professionals: 
  • social, philosophical and other historical forces influencing the development of bioethics; 
  • ethical theory; 
  • ethical principles. 


Developing principled behaviour for health care professionals: 

  • values clarification and development; 
  • ethical decision making. 


Principled behaviour in the professional domain: 

  • professional issues; 
  • professional relationship issues; 
  • practice issues related to technology; 
  • practice issues related to patient self-determination; 
  • research and scholarship issues (incl. institutional ethics committees). 


Local and global ethical issues that impinge on health professionals’ practice: 

  • global consciousness; 
  • health policy issues; 
  • economic issues; 
  • social issues; 
  • gender and sexuality issues; 
  • cultural and spiritual issues (including Indigenous experiences and perspectives) 


Making principled choices: 

  • health professionals’ authority to make principled choices; 
  • empowering patients, families and communities; 
  • barriers to ethical clinical decision making; 
  • enhancing patient and family capacity for decision making in health care. 

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

This unit is delivered to practising paramedics who generally work rotating shifts. Thus, the unit is delivered fully online to allow the flexibility required by students who may not be able to attend on campus or in synchronous mode. As students are currently paramedic practitioners, a teaching and learning strategy which places them at the centre by drawing upon their own experiences best meets the learning needs of this cohort. This unit requires students to undertake 150 hours of focused learning to achieve the unit learning outcomes.  


Flexible asynchronous online learner-centred lessons are used to support student learning. Students are able to co-construct knowledge using online discussions. They are introduced to evidence-based learning via online tutorials and guided reading. 

Assessment strategy and rationale

A range of assessment procedures will be used to meet the unit learning outcomes and develop graduate attributes consistent with University assessment requirements. Assessments are sequenced and timed to support progress from assessment of lower level learning outcomes to higher as the semester progresses. Assessments are weighted accordingly. 


The online quiz assesses ethical theory and practices in a student centred way. The quiz assesses the student’s knowledge of the application of ethical perspectives in informed decision making. The discussion portfolio provides the student with the opportunity to locate, organise, analyse, synthesise and evaluate ethical concepts and theory. The essay provides students with the opportunity to think critically and reflectively. 

These assessments are required to engage students with content that will build knowledge which, by the conclusion of this programme, will allow the student to graduate as a health care professional who can locate and critically appraise discipline specific literature. 

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes



LO1, LO2, LO3, LO4 


Discussion Portfolio (900 words) 


LO1, LO3, LO4, LO5

GA1, GA3, GA4

Essay (2000 words) 


LO1, LO3, LO4, LO5,  LO6 

GA1, GA3, GA4, GA8 

Representative texts and references

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

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


Catholic Health Australia (2001). Code of ethical standards for Catholic health and aged 

    care. Retrieved from 

Freegard, H. (2012). Ethical practice for health professionals. (2nd ed.). Melbourne: Cengage. 

Kerridge, I., Lowe, M., & Cameron, S. (2013). Ethics and law for the health professions (4th ed.). Sydney: Federation Press 

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

Ozolins, J. T., & Grainger, J. (Eds.) (2015).  Foundations of healthcare ethics: Theory to practice. Port Melbourne: Cambridge University. 

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