Course Number: BIE 639
Course Title: Bioethics and the Law

(with sample links – additional links to readings will be provided during course)


Rev. Deacon Tom Davis, J.D., LL.M., M.A. 

1. Course Description

This course introduces basic constitutional, statutory, and regulatory law related to bioethics. United States Supreme Court case law is a central component of the course. The course will examine the development of constitutional substantive due process, privacy, individual autonomy, and equal protection. The structure of American constitutional government, the separation of powers, the protection of individual liberties, and related political and philosophical foundations are examined.

2. Envisioned Learning Outcomes

3. Course Schedule

Topics bioethical issues address informed consent, contraception, sterilization, abortion, emergency contraception and sexual assault, in vitro fertilization, artificial insemination, nuclear transfer, cloning, surrogacy, adoption, embryo adoption, marriage, gender Identity, same-sex relationships, divorce, end of life medical decisions, proxy and surrogate decision making, euthanasia, physician assisted suicide, ordinary care/extraordinary care, stem cell research, applications and funding, research ethics, gene therapy, transhumanism, assisted nutrition and hydration, definitions of death (cessation of circulation and respiration and neurological criteria), anatomical gift, conscience protection in health care, pharmacological issues, vaccines palliative care, hospice, advance medical directives, regulatory oversite of clinical research and experimental medicine, legislative/administrative mandates and religious liberty.

Week 1: Constitutional Foundations – Separation of Powers; Federalism; Judicial Review

Week 1 readings:

Constitution of the United States:

Declaration of Independence:

Federalist Paper No. 39:

Federalist Paper No. 51:

Federalist Paper No. 78:

Week 2: Constitutional Foundations:  Separation of Powers; Federalism; Judicial Review (continued):

Week 2 readings:

Week 1 readings continued

Week 3: Constitutional Foundations: Necessary and Proper Clause; Rational


Week 3 reading:

Marbury v. Madison, 5 U.S. 137 (1803) (judicial review):

McCullough v. Maryland, 17 U.S. 316 (1819) (rational relationship):


Week 4: Constitutional Foundations: Fundamental Rights; Strict Scrutiny; intermittent Scrutiny

        Week 4 Reading:

Sherbert v. Verner, 374 U.S. 398 (1963) (strict scrutiny):

        Masterpiece  Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission (Thomas concurrence):

Week 5: Rise of the Administrative State; Executive Power; Administrative Agencies;

Delegated Authority; Judicial Power/Judicial Review

Panama Refining v. Ryan, 293 U.S. 388 (1935)

National Labor Relations Board v. Jones & Laughlin Steel Corp. 301 U.S. 1 (1937)

Wickard v. Filburn, 317 U.S. 111 (1942)

Mistretta v. United States, 488 U.S. 361 (1989)

Bush v. Gore, 531 U.S. 98 (2000) (concurring): 

Week 6: The Rise of Privacy

Week 6 readings:

Union Pacific R. Co. v. Botsford, 141 U.S. 250 (1891)

Schloendorf v. Society of New York Hospital, 211 N.Y. 12 (1914)

Meyer v. Nebraska, 262 U.S. 390 (1923)

Pierce v. Soc. of the Sisters/Holy Name of Jesus, 268 U.S. 510 (1925)

Week 7: Privacy Ascendant: Marriage, Family, Contraception, Abortion & Sex (2 weeks)

Week 7 readings:

Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 U.S. 479 (1965)

Loving v. Virginia, 388 U.S. 1 (1967)

Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973)

Doe v. Bolton, 410 U.S. 179 (1973)

Moore v. City of East Cleveland, 431 U.S. 494 (1977)

Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, 505 U.S. 833 (1992)

Gonzales v. Carhart, 550 U.S. 124 (2007)

Obergefell v. Hodges, 576 U.S. ___, 135 S.Ct. 2071 (2015)

Week 8: Privacy Ascendant (continued from Week 5)

Week 8 readings:

Continue Week 7 reading

Week 9: Sterilization, capital punishment

Week 9 readings:

Buck v. Bell, 274 U.S. 200 (1927)

Skinner v. State of Oklahoma, ex. rel. Williamson, 316 U.S. 535 (1942)

Stump v. Sparkman, 435 U.S. 349 (1978)

Furman v. Georgia, 408 U.S. 238 (1972)

Gregg v. Georgia, 428 U.S. 153 (1976)

Kennedy v. Louisiana, 554 U.S. 407 (2008)

Week 10: Technological Reproduction

Week 10 readings:

Davis v. Davis, 842 S.W.2d 588 (1992)

Bioethics & Law in a Nutshell:

AI & IVF: pp. 55-63

”Extra” embryos: pp. 63-67

Surrogacy: pp. 67-75

Week 11: Informed Consent, Autonomy, Confidentiality, And Genetic Privacy

Week 11 readings:

Logan v Greenwich Hospital, 191 Conn. 282 (1993)

The Patient Self Determination Act

Conn. Gen. Stat. secs. 52-146c – 146s/ HIAPPA

Bioethics & Law in a Nutshell: Genetics, Chapter 3

Week 12: Right to Refuse Care - autonomy, advance directives, proxies

Week 12 readings:

In re Matter of Quinlan, 70 NJ 10 (1976

Cruzan v. Director, Missouri Dept. of Health, 497 U.S. 261 (1990)

Davis, Advance Directive in the Autonomy Wilderness:


Week 13: End of Life, euthanasia, assisted suicide, determining death

Week 13 readings:

Week 13 readings continued

Washington v. Glucksberg, 521 U.S. 702 (1997)

Oregon Death with Dignity Act:

Gonzales v. Oregon, 546 U.S. 243 (2006)

Controversies in the Determination of Death:

Anatomical Gift: Bioethics & Law in a Nutshell: pp. 192-211

Week 14: Stem Cell; Cloning; Conscience Protection; Research

Week 14 Readings:

Human Cloning Laws:


Bioethics & Law in a Nutshell: pp. 253-261

President Bush’s Bioethics Commission: Human Cloning and Human Dignity:


Conscience Protection:



Bioethics & Law in a Nutshell: pp. 213-249.

K. Semataska, Truth and Cloning: Political Ideology, Scientific

Integrity, and the Advent of Three Parent Children:

Week 15: Mandates, Public Accommodations & Religious Liberty

Week 15 Readings:

Employment Division/Oregon v. Smith

Masterpiece Cake v. Colorado (see week 4)

RFRA (Religious Freedom Restoration Act)(Federal & State versions)

RLUIPA (Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act)

Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, 573 U.S. ___, 134 U.S. 2751 (2014)

Holt v Hobbs, 574 U.S. ___, 135 S.Ct. 853 (2015)




Students who have difficulty with research and composition are encouraged to pursue assistance with

the Online Writing Lab (available at Graduate students are expected to have a mature and logical writing style. While individual variation in style is expected, all writing is expected to develop the subject matter of the posting, essay, or paper in a logical manner that provides 1) adequate foundation, 2) analysis demonstrating knowledge of the subject matter, 3) critical distinctions where appropriate, and 4) clear conclusions. Students are not expected to address issues in the manner of a professionally trained lawyer nor are they expected to have the mastery of subject matter that an attorney would possess. However, the elements described above should be closely followed, as that will provide a common basis to organize writings and to review them. The professor will reconsider any grade upon request. If a student is able to present a clear presentation of any given matter that demonstrates the elements described above, the professor will happily modify grading. Such presentations may be made by email or separately arranged telephone or video conferencing.

Students who have difficulty with research and composition are encouraged to pursue assistance with the Online Writing Lab (available at


A 94-100; A- 90-93; B+ 87-89; B 84-86; B- 80-83; C+ 77-79; C 74-76; C- 70-73 60-69; F 59 and below

Grading Rubric for the Major Papers and Discussion Board (DB) Postings

0 pts. – Paper
0 pts. – DB Posting;

3 pts. – Paper
2 pts. – DB Posting;

6 pts. – Paper
4 pts. – DB Posting;

9 pts. – Paper
6 pts. – DB Posting;

12 pts. – Paper
8 pts. – DB Posting;

15 pts. – Paper
10 pts. – DB Posting;


Absence of Understanding

Analysis shows no awareness of the discipline or its methodologies as they relate to the topic.

Lack of Understanding

Analysis seems to misunderstand some basic concepts of the discipline or lacks ability to articulate them.

Inadequate understanding

Analysis is sometimes unclear in understanding or articulating concepts of the discipline.

Adequate understanding

Analysis demonstrates an understanding of basic concepts of the discipline but could express them with greater clarity.

Solid Understanding

Analysis demonstrates a clear understanding and articulation of concepts with some sense of their wider implications.

Insightful understanding

Analysis clearly demonstrates an understanding and articulation of concepts of the discipline as they relate to the topic; highlights connections to other concepts; integrates concepts into wider contexts.


Missing Research

Paper shows no evidence of research: citation of sources missing.

Inadequate research and/or documentation

Over-reliance on few sources; spotty documentation of facts in text; pattern of citation errors.

Weak research and/or documentation

Inadequate number or quality of sources; many facts not referenced; several errors in citation format.

Adequate research and documentation but needs improvement

Good choice of sources but could be improved with some additions or better selection; did not always cite sources; too many citation errors.

Solid research and documentation

A number of relevant scholarly sources revealing solid research; sources appropriately referenced in paper; only a few minor citation errors.

Excellent critical research and documentation

Critically selected and relevant scholarly sources demonstrating extensive, in-depth research; sources skillfully incorporated into paper at all necessary points; all citations follow standard bibliographic format.


Incomplete writing

Analysis is only partially written or completely misses the topic.

Writing difficult to understand, serious improvement needed

Analysis fails to address the topic; confusing organization or development; little elaboration of position; insufficient control of sentence structure and vocabulary; unacceptable number of errors in grammar, mechanics, and usage.

Episodic writing, a mix of strengths and weaknesses.

Analysis noticeably neglects or misinterprets the topic; simplistic or repetitive treatment, only partially-internalized; weak organization and development, some meandering; simple sentences, below-level diction; distracting errors in grammar, mechanics, and usage.

Acceptable writing, but could use some sharpening of skill

Analysis is an uneven response to parts of the topic; somewhat conventional treatment; satisfactory organization, but more development needed; adequate syntax and diction, but could use more vigor; overall control of grammar, mechanics, and usage, but some errors.

Solid writing, with something interesting to say.

Analysis is an adequate response to the topic; some depth and complexity in treatment; persuasive organization and development, with suitable reasons and examples; level-appropriate syntax and diction; mastery of grammar, mechanics, and usage, with hardly any error.

Command-level writing, making a clear impression

Analysis is a thorough response to the topic; thoughtful and insightful examination of issues; compelling organization and development; superior syntax and diction; error-free grammar, mechanics, and usage.

COMMUNITY INTERACTION (50-word response)

Inadequate response

Response merely provides laudatory encouragement for original post, e.g., “Excellent post! You really have thought of something there.”

Poor response

Response misses the point of the original posting.

Weak response

Response summarizes original posting to which it responds.

Acceptable response

Response makes a contribution to the posting to which it responds.

Individually-conscious contributory response

Response makes a contribution to the posting to which it responds and fosters its development.

Community-conscious contributory response

Response makes a contribution to the learning community and fosters its development.


Holy Apostles College & Seminary is committed to the goal of achieving equal educational opportunities and full participation in higher education for persons with disabilities who qualify for admission to the College. Students enrolled in online courses who have documented disabilities requiring special accommodations should contact Bob Mish, the Director of Online Student Affairs, at or 860-632-3015. In all cases, reasonable accommodations will be made to ensure that all students with disabilities have access to course materials in a mode in which they can receive them. Students who have technological limitations (e.g., slow Internet connection speeds in convents) are asked to notify their instructors the first week of class for alternative means of delivery.


Students at Holy Apostles College & Seminary are expected to practice academic honesty.

Avoiding Plagiarism

In its broadest sense, plagiarism is using someone else's work or ideas, presented or claimed as your own.  At this stage in your academic career, you should be fully conscious of what it means to plagiarize. This is an inherently unethical activity because it entails the uncredited use of someone else's expression of ideas for another's personal advancement; that is, it entails the use of a person merely as a means to another person’s ends. Plagiarism includes: 1. Directly quoting without acknowledging the source. 2. Changing a few words of a text without indicating this was done and/or not acknowledging the source. 3. Not acknowledging that the structure of ideas or logic is from another author. 4. Not acknowledging a unique image (including analogies, similes, metaphors etc.) is from a particular document or author.

Students, where applicable:

     Should identify the title, author, page number/webpage address, and publication date of works when directly quoting small portions of texts, articles, interviews, or websites.

     Students should not copy more than two paragraphs from any source as a major component of papers or projects.

     Should appropriately identify the source of information when paraphrasing (restating) ideas from texts, interviews, articles, or websites.

     Should follow the Holy Apostles College & Seminary Stylesheet (available on the Online Writing Lab’s website at

Consequences of Academic Dishonesty:

Because of the nature of this class, academic dishonesty is taken very seriously.  Students caught plagiarizing will receive a zero for the assignment, and may be withdrawn from the class and/or expelled from Holy Apostles.


Even though you are not required to be logged in at any precise time or day, you are expected to login several times during each week. Because this class is being taught entirely in a technology-mediated forum, it is important to actively participate each week in the course. In a traditional classroom setting for a 3-credit course, students would be required, per the federal standards, to be in class three 50-minute sessions (or 2.5 hours a week) and prepare for class discussions six 50-minute sessions (or 5 hours) a week. Expect to devote at least nine 50-minute sessions (or 7.5 quality hours) a week to this course. A failure on the student’s part to actively participate in the life of the course may result in a reduction of the final grade.


Students who have completed little or no coursework are ineligible for an “Incomplete” in a course. An instructor may grant an incomplete to a student who:

An “I” for “Incomplete” is a temporary grade assigned at the discretion of the instructor.

A student seeking an Incomplete should obtain the Incomplete form from the shared folder of the files tab in Populi or from the Associate Registrar’s office. The student will fill out the parts of the form pertaining to the student and submit the form to the instructor before the end of the semester.

If the instructor approves the Incomplete, the instructor fills out the section of the Incomplete form indicating what the student must do to finish the course and signs the form.

The instructor of an online class sends the approved form to the Assistant Registrar for online learning; the instructor of an on-campus class sends the form to the Associate Registrar for on-campus learning. The instructor also sends a copy of the completed Incomplete form to the student.

Students receiving an Incomplete (I) must submit the missing course work by the end of the sixth week following the semester in which they were enrolled. An incomplete grade administratively turns into the grade of “F” for “Fail” if the course work is not completed by the

end of the sixth week.

“W” for “Withdrawal” will appear on the student’s permanent record for any course dropped after the end of the first week of a semester to the end of the third week.

Absent the granting of an “I” for Incomplete, “WF” for “Withdrawal/Fail” will appear on the student’s permanent record for any course dropped after the end of the third week of a semester and on or before the Friday before the last week of the semester.

A student who does not complete sufficient coursework to pass a course and does not request a W or a WF will receive an F as the final course grade.


Reverend Deacon Thomas J. Davis, Jr.

Deacon Tom Davis is a member of the Melkite Catholic Church, one of the Byzantine Catholic Churches privileged to enjoy full communion with the See of Rome. He serves at St. Ann Melkite Catholic Church in Danbury, Connecticut. Deacon Tom is the Director of the Saint John Paul II Bioethics Center at Holy Apostles College & Seminary where he teaches courses in Medical Ethics, Case Studies and Applied Topics in Bioethics, and Bioethics and the Law. He also serves as Chair of the Bioethics Graduate Concentration Program. Deacon Tom is a member of the Finance Council of the Eparchy of Newton for Melkite Catholics in the United States and its Legal and Investment committees. He has been an assistant attorney general of the State of Connecticut since 1991 and previously served as an assistant corporation counsel of the City of New York. He lives in Sandy Hook, Connecticut with his wife Joanne and their three children, Greg, Julia, and Sophia.



Reported Appellate Decisions


Catholic Medical Association, Archdiocese of Hartford (2011)


Federalist Society; Fellowship of Catholic Scholars; Society of Catholic Social Scientists; State Bar of Connecticut; State Bar of New York; Federal Bar of the District of Connecticut; Federal Bar of Second Circuit