Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 1 session / week, 1.5 hours / session

Course Overview

The course will focus on changing scientific paradigms and their social medicine (social, ethical, clinical) implications. The course will look very closely at the development of new biotechnologies, at the basic science level, and the social and ethical issues associated with these new technologies. For instance, xenotransplantation provides a window into new understandings of immune mechanisms, but at the same time creates such troubling ethical issues as changing requirements for informed consent and the nature of risk to society. Stem cells and tissue engineering provide a window into both therapeutic cloning and the ethics of, and legislative control of, embryo research. Basic scientists, clinicians, bioethicists and social scientists will make presentations on topics including the changing political economy of biotech research (university-industry relations, venture capital, etc.); problems associated with the adaptation of new biotechnologies for clinical settings; the ethical issues that emerge from clinical research and clinical use of new technologies (including clinical trials); and the broader social ethics associated with the differential availability and use of new technologies, pharmaceuticals or experimental procedures across rich and poor nations. Students and faculty will reflect on these issues based on cases presented in class, drawing on recent literature from medical ethics, the social studies of science, and medical anthropology.

This year we particularly want to explore how "interdisciplinary" work gets accomplished. We have invited a number of people involved in the new MGH Thematic Centers to talk about their labs, their thinking about the opportunities such new Centers might create, the labors of putting such Centers together, and the scientific trajectories envisioned. We will also continue following the angiogenesis story that has been unfolding over the past several years, as well as tissue engineering and stem cell initiatives.


Use of cases and recent literature.


Pass/fail for medical students. Separate arrangements are made for STS graduate students.


Two short papers are required.