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PHIL511 Philosophy and the Moral Life

Teaching organisation

This unit involves 150 hours of focused learning. The total includes formally structured learning activities such as lectures, tutorials, online learning, video-conferencing, or supervision. The remaining hours typically involve reading, research, and the preparation of tasks for assessment.

Unit rationale, description and aim

This unit will examine the distinctive character of the Catholic healthcare, as well as some of the difficulties encountered in maintaining this character in the 21st century. Commercial, technological and social challenges will be identified and explored. In exploring real and important tensions, the unit will consider the role of the Catholic healthcare institutions, and the individuals who work in them, in responding to challenges and in mediating legitimate competing interests.

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 - discuss some distinctive features of the Catholic healthcare sector (GA2; GA8; GA9);

LO2 - identify relevant ethical issues in the management of risk (GA2; GA8);

LO3 - analyse some characteristic tensions that arise in the provision of healthcare services arising from commercial, institutional and sector imperatives, within the healthcare sector, with a particular focus on the Catholic sector (GA1; GA8); 

LO4 - evaluate different approaches to just allocation (GA4; GA8). 

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 

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

GA9 - demonstrate effective communication in oral and written English language and visual media 


Topics will include:

  • Principle points of ethos of the Catholic healthcare sector;
  • Commercial tensions: The business of health care;
  • Tensions and interactions between state, Catholic and other faith tradition health care systems in the public healthcare sector;
  • Managing and implementing government policy and regulation;
  • Catholic healthcare facilities in a multicultural society;
  • Justice in the allocation of health care resources: proceduralist, utilitarian and rights-based approaches to allocation;
  • New technologies and cost-benefit analyses;
  • Ethical issues in risk management.

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

This unit involves 150 hours of focused learning. The total includes formally structured learning activities such as lectures, tutorials and online learning. The remaining hours typically involve reading, research, and the preparation of tasks for assessment. The unit has been designed as a blend of a blend of collaborative learning and project-based learning approaches, combined with direct instruction to introduce and draw out new and unfamiliar concepts and theories. The collaborative context of the unit is focused especially on the small group discussion of the weekly readings. The project-based aspect relates to the research project on which students work throughout the second half of the unit, culminating in their research essay.

Assessment strategy and rationale

The assessment strategy for this unit is designed to facilitate broad engagement across the topics covered, while also requiring deeper engagement with one of the unit topics in particular. The tutorial oral and accompanying short written task requires students to demonstrate skills in attentive and accurate reading of a key text, and to explicate it in clear and concise oral and written formats. The short written task that follows requires students to explicate and analyse another text at greater length. Finally, the research essay task provides students with the opportunity to undertake sustained philosophical reading and research, culminating in an extended piece of formal writing that examines their capacity to develop a coherent argument in response to an important philosophical question.

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

Tutorial oral and associated short written task  

Requires students to demonstrate skills in written and spoken exposition and analysis of a text. 



GA2; GA8, GA9

Written analysis task 

Requires students to demonstrate understanding of key concepts and debates.


LO1, LO2

GA2; GA8, GA9

Argumentative/Research Essay

Requires students to critically analyse an important debate in the field and to develop a coherent position.


LO1, LO2, LO3, LO4

GA1, GA2, GA4, GA8, GA9

Representative texts and references

Anderlik, M. (2001) The Ethics of Managed Care: A Pragmatic Approach, Indiana University Press.

Wall, B. (2005) Unlikely Entrepreneurs: Catholic Sisters and the Hospital Marketplace 1865- 1925. Ohio State University Press.

Dracopoulou, S (ed), (1998) Ethics and Values in Health Care Management, New York: Routledge.

Fisher, A. (2012). Catholic Bioethics for a New Millennium, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Fisher, A., and L. Gormally. (2001) Healthcare Allocation: An Ethical Framework for Public Policy,London: Linacre Centre.

Furton, E and V. McLoud Dort.(2009) Ethical Principle in Catholic Health Care.National Catholic Bioethics Center.

Kaveny, M.C., (1999) “Commodifying the Polyvalent Good of Health Care”, Journal of Medicine and Philosophy, 24 (3), 207-223.

Parker, M (ed). (1998) Ethics and Community in the Health Care Professions, New York: Routledge.

Serlin, I.A, (2007) Whole Person Healthcare [3 volumes]. Westport, CT: Praeger Press.

Sorrell, T., (1998) Health Care, Ethics and Insurance,London: Routledge.

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