Degree course: 
Corso di First cycle degree in BIOTECHNOLOGY
Academic year when starting the degree: 
Academic year in which the course will be held: 
Course type: 
Compulsory subjects, characteristic of the class
First Semester
Standard lectures hours: 
Detail of lecture’s hours: 
Lesson (32 hours)

A good general knowledge, culture and education acquired by the media, essays and literary texts.

Final Examination: 

To act consistently with the above-mentioned aims and methodology, a written multiple choice test (20 questions about the whole course-contents, ten regarding ethics and ten about human sciences; two minutes for answering each question) is eventually submitted. Both the discipline-tests have to be passed, otherwise the whole examination must be repeated. The test shows the reached level of theoretical knowledge and understanding, of history/ethics-applying skills and of other competences in medical humanities like the communicating and debating ability inside a pluralistic arena. The final evaluation comes from the qualitatively pondered average results discussed by the teaching team.

Voto Finale

Educational aims and hoped-for results in medical humanities are the coherent, necessary completion of an University degree in biomedical profession/sciences/technologies. The main goal is training the students for a sound and coherent ethical and historical reasoning in biomedical contexts of research, practice and work. Skills to be pursued and implemented are the following ones: perceiving a moral dilemma; justifying personal evaluations in the light of rules, principles and theories; composing a quarrel and disagreement inside the staff and into our social pluralistic arena; recognizing the historical and cultural dimensions of scientific and technological institutions and practices; learning a language suitable for understanding, interpreting and commenting (in dialogue) upon the narrative events of the institutional working life. At the end of the course, the student is expected to manage ethical, humanistic and historical cognitive skills, to express and defend an autonomous moral judgment, to apply the theoretical understanding to specific, concrete biomedical dilemmas, to communicate, dialogue and debate value-laded issues in an interdisciplinary and pluralistic setting, to learn an attitude of ethical problem-solving.

Definition of bioethics (history, aims, methods, tools), biological science and research, medical humanities, applied ethics, history of medicine and of technologies. Truth telling. Privacy and confidentiality (bio-banks). Euthanasia and over-treatment. Drug experimentation, codes of ethics and ethics committees. Informed consent. Abortion and status of embryo. Assisted procreation. Cloning and stem cells. Justice and re-sources allocation. Organ transplantation. Definition of death and brain death. Islamic and Jewish patients. Communication inside the staff. Ethics, literature and cinema. Vaccines and public health issues. Burn out in biological personnel: ethics and psychiatry, psychoanalysis and psychotherapy. Genetic testing and screening. Nursing and ethics at the chair-side. Ethics consultation. Animal rights. Introductory elements of history-of-biotechnology.
Vis a vis lessons/lectures are going to deal with some of these topics and to show the proper learning methodology. Individual ways of further studying and investigating in ethics and history are to be taught and tested in the classroom.
History of medicine/biotechnology:
The links and events through which the doctrines of healthy and sick man have passed: the profound changes that have emerged over time. The main stages of the biological sciences, from the ancient philosophy of nature to the scientific revolution of the modern world. The Galilean method and the use of optical magnification. The progress of knowledge of the human body and physiology; the blood flow. Ancient therapeutic methods (blood-letting) and the modern concepts of blood, intended as replacement therapy and medicine. Transfusion and the technical-scientific evolution of methodologies for collecting, storing and transporting blood components. The experimental method and the first attempts at mechanical interpretation of vital phenomena (iatromechanics and iatrochemistry); the controversies around the theory of spontaneous generation. The vaccines. The organ and cell pathology. The new nineteenth-century scientific dimension: the "birth of the clinic" and the revolution of hospitals, the new safety of surgery, the identification of infectious agents. The conversation between the clinic and the laboratory. An example of biomedical research in the experience of some Italian scientists. The victorious paths of the twentieth century: new knowledge of the biological mechanisms of protection from diseases, the effective results of prevention and therapies, the discovery of antibiotics and to organ transplants. The introduction of technologies that have dominated the clinical context. An insight at the new century, which draws from the frontiers of immunology, molecular biology and bioengineering, with an acute sensitivity for the dimensions of biotechnology, also in the face of certain persistent uncertainties in medicine.

Paolo Cattorini, Bioetica. Metodo ed elementi di base per affrontare problemi clinici, Ed. Elsevier, Milano, 4 ed. , 2011; Paolo Cattorini, Bioetica e cinema, Ed. FrancoAngeli, Milano, 2° ed. 2006; P. Cattorini, La libertà del cervello. Neuroscienze, etica e cinema, Bologna, Dehoniane, 2013; T.L. Beauchamp – J.F. Childress, Princìpi di etica biomedica, Firenze, Le Lettere, 1999 (Principles of Biomedical Ethics, Oxford Univ. Press); P. Dalla Torre, a cura di, Cinema con-temporaneo e questioni bioetiche, Roma, Studium, 2010; S. Shapshay, Ed., Bioethics at the Movies, Baltimore, The Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 2009; G. Boniolo - P. Maugeri, Eds., Etica alle frontiere della biomedicina, Milano, Mondadori, 2014; D. Neri, La bioetica in laboratorio, Roma-Bari, Laterza, 2005.
For History:
Zanobio-Armocida, Storia della medicina, Milano, Masson, last ed.
L. BELLONI, Per la storia della medicina, Arnaldo Forni Editore, Bologna 1990.
G. ARMOCIDA, Storia della medicina dal XVII al XX secolo, Jaca Book, Milano 1993.
R. PORTER, Breve ma veridica storia della medicina occidentale, Carocci ed., Roma 2011


By following the introductory exposition by the professor (in order to achieve the above-mentioned educational aims), and by dealing with concrete situational problems, cognitive knowledge, emotional discernment, communicating competence and history/ethics-applying skills are fostered and trained. Theories, principles, ways of reasoning, logical rules, linguistic ambiguities, styles of behavior and moral questions are presented, commented and analyzed in a pluralistic manner. Relevant key words and issues will be debated and interdisciplinary professional dilemmas will be criticized and evaluated. Narrative texts, especially motion pictures, will involve the group in the emotional heart of complex cases, in order to outline the social and historical imaginary, to help the expression of individual/class insights and feelings, to prepare a mature staff decision.

Email Address:; Reception Hours: for more information and individual consultation in “Padiglione Antonini”, via Rossi 9, Varese, the student is invited to preliminarily contact the teachers at their email address.