Next up … Bioethics! … again …


In mid-April the Kennedy Institute of Ethics at Georgetown University (GeorgetownX) began a revised Introduction to Bioethics (PHLX101-03x) course on the edX platform. I attempted the first release and found some of the supplementary material lacking. Confronted with time constraints I decided to set the course aside (unenroll) and complete the archived version when I wasn’t so pressed for time. Having had now the chance to gain more insight on the topic through independent reading and lectures of Greg Dr. Greg Sadler.  I think I’ll probably get much more out of the course. I’ve decided to add David VanDrunen’s Bioethics and the Christian Life: A Guide to Making Difficult Decisions  to enrich my understanding of the coursework

In a nutshell, Introduction to Bioethics will cover five major themes, each lasting two weeks and divided into two units:

  1. Respecting Autonomy: The first theme explores one of the founding issues of modern bioethics: the importance of respecting the autonomy, or self-determination, of patients and research subjects. Why is it so important? What are its limits? And what about the autonomy of doctors and nurses? In Unit 1, we will look specifically at patient autonomy. Unit 2 is about provider autonomy.
  2. Bioethics and the Human Body: The second theme explores issues concerning the human body. Unit 3 will ask us to think hard about what disability – and “normal” – really means. Unit 4 will look at fascinating questions around enhancing the body.
  3. Bioethics at the Beginning of Life: In Unit 5, we’ll look at the fascinating world of “collaborative reproduction” – new ways of creating babies and building families, and some of the ethical issues they raise. In Unit 6, we’ll explore the important and difficult issue of abortion. Good and reasonable people disagree on this topic: we’ll be exploring different views to help all of us think more deeply about it.
  4. Bioethics at the End of Life: The fourth theme explores the other bookend of human life. Unit 7 looks at the end of life for those who can no longer speak for themselves – those in a persistent vegetative state, for instance. What parameters should guide our decision making here? And what is the definition of death, anyway? Unit 8 takes on a critical issue that is hotly debated right now: for those who can speak for themselves as they approach death, does the right to autonomy include the right to request help in hastening one’s death
  5. Global Bioethics: The fifth and final theme explores a variety of bioethical issues in an increasingly globalized world. Unit 9 will take on the urgent and complex issue of climate change: what does the perspective of Environmental Justice add to our understanding of the ethics? Unit 10, the final unit, surveys three issues of emerging growth: medical tourism, outsourcing medical research to developing countries, and ensuring food security in the 21st century.

This is GeorgetownX’s fourth iteration of the course and it is interesting to watch as MOOC (Massive Open Online Courses) such as this morph over time Changes in subject matter (issues in bioethics) as well as pedagogical advances (improvements in presenting the subject material and assessing student learning) are apparent in going over past syllabi for this course. Introduction to Bioethics also offers Facebook and Twitter social media for student / instructor interaction as well as the standard edX platform discussion forum. Sounds like it will be an interesting 10 weeks.


Johnson Creek Science Symposium

Johnson Creek Science Symposium
Thursday, 26 May 2016 @ 1p – 6p

Reed College, Performing Arts Building 320
3203 S.E. Woodstock Blvd.
Portland, Oregon  97202

The 2nd Annual Johnson Creek Science Symposium will be held on Thursday, 26 May 2016 at Reed College in Portland, Oregon. The Johnson Creek Watershed Council was formed in the mid-1980s in response to long-term water quality issues and an endemic degradation of the riparian corridor. Several local government agencies had tried unsuccessfully to solve the flooding problems, prescribing top-down engineering solutions which ultimately failed. The Johnson Creek Watershed Council (JCWC) was formed in 1995 fostering the nascent stewardship ethic in the watershed.

Johnson Creek flows 26 miles from its headwaters near Boring, Oregon to where it joins the Willamette River, passing through a diverse topography of forests, farms, golf courses, parks and natural areas, industrial stretches, alongside trails and through residential communities. The corridor serves as home for a number of threatened and native fish and wildlife, including steelhead and cutthroat trout, coho and Chinook salmon, as well as red-legged frog, painted turtles, salamanders, pileated woodpeckers, and great blue herons.

My involvement with Johnson Creek started quite by accident. While at the National Park Service, I developed an interest in water quality issues. I had the opportunity to participate in river restoration coursework at OSU and, seeking to learn new computer programming skills, had joined the PDX R User Group in Portland. With more of a naturalist background then one in computers, I was asked to give a talk on local water quality issues and chose nearby Johnson Creek. The USGS (United States Geological Survey) and NWS (National Weather Service) both provide excellent historical water quantity and quality data, and I was able to do a basic statistical study of water flow in the Johnson Creek basin.

The R User Groups draw an interesting cross-section of participants, and as it turned out there was a professor from Reed College in attendance who took an interest; Johnson Creek is adjacent to the campus and he had been studying formally and informally for a number of years. Several meetings (and beers) later, I had come to appreciate this “case study” in riparian restoration.

This annual gathering of academic, jurisdictional, non-profit, and community partners is focused on sharing current science around the Johnson Creek Watershed. This year’s event will feature talks and posters about water conditions, restoration, and wildlife. While I most likely won’t be able to attend, I retain my affinity for Johnson Creek, its restoration and preservation.

The Science Symposium directly precedes the Johnson Creek Annual Celebration and fundraising dinner. Short talks will be given from 1pm – 5pm followed by a poster session from 5p – 6p. The event is free and open to the public. Space is limited to 100 attendees so early registration is recommended. Register soon at

1:00 – Introduction
1:10 – Restoration presentations
2:10 – Water conditions presentations
3:10 – Coffee and snack break
3:40 – Wildlife presentations
5:00 – Poster session in Kaul Auditorium

For further information please contact Emma Eichhorn, Symposium Coordinator, Johnson Creek Watershed Council at (971) 235-6361

Sponsors for the Symposium include, Riverview Community Bank, Oregon RFID, Otak, City of Gresham, Aquatic Contracting, Brown and Caldwell, Otak, Kern-Thompson, Metro, and ESA Vigil-Agrimis.