Required Courses

  • Foundations of Bioethics I and II

    8 credits

    The Master of Bioethics program requires Foundations I in the first term of study and Foundations II in the second term of study. The course is a multilayered approach to bioethics, from the philosophical underpinnings to the application of theory to central challenges in bioethics and, beyond, to law and policy. Foundations I and II combine readings from original texts, theoretical critiques, legal and policy approaches to subject matter areas, and examination of other critical forces such as social science and religion, that have shaped contemporary bioethics. 

  • Capstone Seminar I and II

    Classroom support of your mentored experience
    4 credits

    The capstone experience is a required component of the Master’s program that provides a mentored field placement or project that allows each student to actively participate in applied bioethics work. The Capstone Seminar is intended to help students reflect upon their own and others’ Capstone experiences, thereby developing an appreciation for the range and complexities of real-world work in clinical ethics, research ethics, or law and/or public policy related to bioethics. Together, the Capstone and associated Seminar focus on acquiring knowledge through experience and linking theoretical knowledge with the technê (craft, skill or art) of bioethics practice. A central feature of the seminar involves consideration of the role responsibilities, professional skills, and virtues of those doing practical bioethics work. Special Note: Students are matched with individual capstone mentors for project supervision to fulfill the capstone requirement.

Core Courses

  • Introduction to Clinical Ethics

    4 credits

    This course covers major principles and themes in Clinical Ethics (e.g. futility, physician-assisted suicide, advance directives). Each session includes interactive case-based lecture and discussion, followed by a practicum. The practicum is modeled around the experience of a clinical ethics committee with small groups of students working through a case and crafting an interpretation and set of recommendations.

  • Introduction to Research Ethics

    4 credits

    This course provides students with a comprehensive foundation in research ethics. Topics covered in this course include many of the complex, real-life ethical issues that have attracted public attention in recent years, such as undue influence of research participants, concerns about therapeutic misconception and subject recruitment, concerns about social justice in the context of biomedical research, and uncertainty about new forms of biomedical research. Class sessions are built around a critical discussion of fundamental concepts and case studies that elucidate the complex interplay of philosophical, scientific, and practical considerations that characterize the field of research ethics.

  • Health Law, Policy, and Bioethics

    4 credits

    This course is an introduction to legal topics in health policy and bioethics. It requires no experience in law and begins with a brief primer on American law and how it works. Topics covered include legal aspects of the doctor-patient relationship, medical malpractice, privacy issues, health care finance, end-of-life issues, organ donation, disability, mental health, public health, medical product regulation, food regulation, and intellectual property.

Elective Courses

  • Bioethics Advocacy

    2 credits

    This course seeks to highlight various bioethical issues and dilemmas—especially those that might have relevance in the national discourse about health care—and then develop strategies and ideas for how to research the issues at hand and also promote awareness about them among those in healthcare and, perhaps, the general public as well. Specific topics covered during this month-long intensive course are developed during the course according to student interests and might include the following: US healthcare reform; health disparities and social justice; the impact of social, economic, political, and environmental factors on health; human rights (including healthcare personnel involvement in interrogation and torture); advocacy on behalf of vulnerable populations, and cultural awareness and competency.

  • Neuroethics

    2 credits

    This course undertakes a survey of the ethical issues related to current and future neurotechnologies. These include consciousness, selfhood, and free will; human-computer interaction (including artificial intelligence and deep learning); brain-computer interfaces; the use of neuroscience in the courts; and cognitive enhancement. The course covers many topics related to medical care for patients with neurological disorders, including disorders of consciousness, deciding for others, preclinical imaging and genetic testing for patients with neurological disorders, and clinical research on neural engineering devices.

  • Global Health Ethics

    2 credits

    This course examines foundational normative problems and pragmatic ethical challenges facing those who work in some capacity to improve health outcomes for very poor populations living under conditions of severe resource scarcity. Participants interrogate basic conceptual ideas such as “what do we mean by ‘global health equity’?” and the nature and root sources of “resource scarcity”, in addition to focusing on specific practical concerns such as 1) how to conduct ethical responsible research on and with socially and economically disadvantaged and vulnerable populations, 2) macro-economic and micro-bedside resource allocation dilemmas, and 3) health care worker “brain drain” from poor to rich locales.

  • Ethics in Reproductive Medicine

    2 credits

    The course examines ethical issues that arise in reproductive medicine and women’s health. Specifically, participants address ethical questions that arise in the context of providing assisted reproduction services, family planning services, pregnancy care and surgical services to women and their families. Questions and issues addressed in the course include the following: ethics surrounding the abortion and fetal tissue research debate; multiple cases in assisted reproduction including sex selection, savior siblings, age restrictions in IVF, intra-familial gamete donation, post-humous reproduction; cases at the maternal fetal divide and discussion of the balance of interests in these cases; genetic engineering in assisted reproduction.

  • Ethics in Genomics

    2 credits

    The aim of this course is to offer an in-depth exploration of key ethical challenges and controversies surrounding recent developments in genomics. The course is designed in seven three-hour sessions with each session covering a specific topic. Topics include the appropriate informed consent for genomic testing, direct-to-consumer offers of personal genomic testing, the return of incidental findings etc. For each of the identified challenges participants examine a) how they emerged and why, b) what is the current state of the debate, including the current policies for best practice and c) what are the new directions, if any, in resolving some of the most acute controversies around the challenges. Each session begins with a lecture, followed by discussion and student-driven projects. Student-driven projects include a variety of formats such as discussion of selected case studies, presentation of a journal article, debate panels.

  • Health and Human Rights

    2 credits

    This course is taught in seminar format and centers on each week’s readings. The course examines health and health care in the context of human rights. Questions and issues that are addressed in the course include the following: If we have a right to health, does that include the right to health care or the right to receive medications? If so, what are some of the systematic obstacles to actually obtaining needed care? In addressing these issues participants examine some of the social determinants of health, including education, poverty, the social safety net, the oppression of minority groups, and the profit driven elements of much of our health care system. We also explore women’s health and reproductive rights, racial issues and disparities that affect health, prisoner issues, human trafficking, and vulnerable populations including refugees, asylum seekers and those with mental illness.

  • Critical Reading of Contemporary Books in Bioethics

    2 credit

    This year-long course is intended to expose students to a variety of contemporary books that address various bioethical issues. The course does so in the following manner: for each of the 4 books that are read in the course, we first conduct a two-hour seminar in which the students and faculty discuss and analyze the book and prepare for the author’s visit. Subsequently, the class attends a 1.5 hour public lecture and forum with the author, followed by a 2-hour session with the author. Following each book/author, students complete a writing assignment with each assignment that will vary in format throughout the semester. Assignments include mock book reviews and others will be more analytic evaluations of the central argument(s) in the book, with at least one essay intended for a non-academic audience.

  • Narrative Ethics

    2 credits

    This elective course focuses on narrative approaches to ethical issues in clinical medicine. Using literary narratives and poetry as the primary readings, the course methodology emphasizes the importance of particularity, contingency, change, voice, context, and time in recognizing, evaluating, and resolving moral problems. The course aims to develop skills in critical and reflective reading and writing that enhance competence in clinical ethics. Texts include fiction, essays, and poetry. Approximately two hours of reading is assigned for each class hour. The instructor provides necessary philosophic and literary context at the beginning of each class session, the balance devoted to discussion. The course also focuses on how to use narrative in bioethics writing. Students write six short essays that examine ethical issues in medicine in such areas as the meanings of illness, the patient-doctor relationship, the moral role of the care giver, and the relevance of emotions, culture, ethnicity, faith, values, social context, and life histories to ethical patient care. 

  • Pediatric Bioethics

    2 credits

    Pediatric bioethics addresses not only the complexities of a developing child but also the role of the parent in healthcare decision-making for children.  This course tackles these unique complexities, examining bioethical considerations at different times (e.g., infancy, adolescence, end-of-life) and in different locales (e.g., intensive care unit, nursery, outpatient clinic) in pediatric healthcare and investigate fundamental ethical dilemmas through the lens of pediatrics (e.g., considerations of disability, gender, and treatment refusal).  Utilizing interactive lectures, case analyses, and facilitated discussions, the course will examine what makes pediatric bioethics unique, fascinating, and challenging.  Through writing assignments, critiques of the literature, and class discussions, students will become familiar with the foundational readings and core clinical/legal cases that have shaped modern pediatric bioethics and gain the skills to critically analyze ethical dilemmas in pediatric healthcare. 

  • Race, Gender and Sexuality in Bioethics

    2 credits

    In its attention to gender, race, and sexuality, feminist bioethics challenges and expands contemporary bioethical theory and practice. Drawing from philosophy, theology, law, medicine, public health, and the social and biological sciences, this interdisciplinary field is both critical and constructive in addressing bioethical theory, method, and substantive ethical concerns across the clinical, research, organizational, public policy, and global spheres. In this weekly seminar, we examine the theoretical landscape and social movements that prompted the emergence of feminist bioethics, the diverse strands of feminist thought including the ethics of care and of oppression, frameworks of justice, critical race bioethics, queer bioethics, and more as they inform our critical analyses of particular ethical issues. We do this through close readings of texts, brief lectures, student and faculty facilitated discussions and debates as well as written assignments.