Required Courses

  • Foundations of Bioethics I and II

    BETH 701 and BETH 702
    10 credits

    The Master of Science in 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

    BETH 707 and BETH 708 | Classroom support of your mentored experience.
    6 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

    BETH 703
    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

    BETH 705
    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

    BETH 706
    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.

  • Two Approved Equivalent Courses

    *Click to see details
    4 credits*

    Health Law, Policy, and Bioethics or two approved equivalent courses for a total of 4 credits may count towards the third core course requirement. Approved equivalent courses include:

    • Global Health Ethics
    • Health and Human Rights
    • Global Equity and Human Rights
    • Reproductive Ethics, Law, and Justice
    • Neurolaw course
    • Electives in other schools with permission from the department.

    Students may petition the program for exemption of one of three Core courses with proof of prior advanced study and/or alternative course selection. Please contact the Education Team directly a for more information.

Elective Courses

  • Bioethics Advocacy

    BETH 713
    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

    BETH 704
    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

    BETH 710
    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

    BETH 716
    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

    BETH 720
    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

    BETH 751
    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

    BETH 753
    2 credits

    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

    BETH 721
    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

    BETH 715
    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

    BETH 718
    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.

  • Animal Ethics in Theory and Practice

    BETH 724
    2 credits

    Unlike many fields of ethical inquiry, we all have to make choices about animal ethics - the way we use animals -  every day. Studying animal ethics illuminates personal values about so much more than the other animals on the planet. Animal ethics intersects with questions of justice, dignity, intrinsic value, the nature of prejudice, tribalism, identity, and politics. If you are already interested in animals, this course will deepen your factual knowledge about animals and ask you to reflect upon the complexities and paradoxes of human-animal relations. However, if this subject is something you have never considered important or interesting, your perspective is welcome here. During the semester we will highlight animal ethics’ integral position within bioethical inquiry and draw parallels between the intricacies of human relationships and human-animal interactions.

    The course aims to provoke a critical evaluation of the relationship between people and other animals by starting from a solid foundation in factual information about animal cognition and capabilities, about animals as research subjects, as food, as targets of conservation, as objects for human entertainment, and in complex, often paradoxical relationships with humans. The course will also use art and culture as way to understand the relationship between humans and non-human life.

    A diversity of experience, background, and knowledge (including little to no knowledge) about animals is welcomed as the class relies heavily upon student participation, engagement, and openness to critical thought. Live class sessions will include guests with expertise in conservation research, literature, veterinary medicine, and animal research. Required materials and assignments include in-person animal experiences and tours, videos, podcasts, film reviews and investigations of visual and other art forms.

  • Ditching the Deficit Model: Science Communication for Ethical Community

    BETH 759
    2 credits

    Deficit model approaches to science communication presume that facts speak for themselves, and that providing "lay" audiences with scientific information can dispel public opposition to science and technology. From vaccine uptake to trust in novel gene therapies, deficit model approaches are failing. This seminar style course turns the deficit model on its head by providing the critical awareness and skills needed for truly effective science communication and community engagement. This course teaches an alternative approach that recognizes a plurality of values and harnesses those differences to build relationships and find common ground. Through a combination of short lectures, critical readings, small group activities, and targeted communication training, students will gain the necessary skills to apply these learnings to a diversity of audiences; from interdisciplinary teams to policy makers, community partners, and the broader public. Together we will explore case studies on vaccine uptake, synthetic biology, environmental technologies, population genomics, big data, and disability justice of CRISPR gene editing to cultivate ethical communication strategies that aim to connect across differences, not convince. The skills gained in this course will be equally valuable to those students pursuing careers in academia, science policy, science communication, and beyond.

  • Environmental Ethics and Justice

    BETH 722
    2 credits

    From unprecedented wildfires to accelerated biodiversity loss, record temperatures, and a global pandemic, we are confronted with extraordinary societal and environmental challenges. As humans whose survival grows increasingly precarious on a degrading planet, how can we make decisions that ensure the flourishing of humans and non-human beings?  The overarching goal of this course is to grapple with fundamental philosophies underpinning the field of environmental ethics. We will situate prevailing ideas about the human relationship to nature within historic and ongoing structures of oppression, critically analyzing the ways those ideas impact decision-making across sectors and governance levels.  As a seminar style course, short lectures, group work, and case studies will make up the structure of the course. Students will be evaluated by a final short essay and weekly assignments.

  • Theological and Religious Perspectives in Bioethics

    BETH 712
    2 credits

    This seminar course is designed to reflect on the role and contributions of theological positions and various religious traditions to the interdisciplinary field of bioethics. Attention is given to the unique influence of theological voices on the development of bioethics in the North American context. Moreover, it identifies some of the principles embraced by these approaches and how they guide decisions in health care. Thus, it surveys a few examples of how theology engages the perennial and emerging questions in bioethics. Throughout the course emphasis is placed on how these insights can assist bioethicists in resolving some of the concerns that emerge particularly in clinical bioethics. Reflection also is given to the interplay of religious bioethics and public discourse. The course combines lecture, discussion, and student presentations.

  • US Eugenics: Legacies and Resurgences

    BETH 766
    2 credits

    An exploration of the ethics of scientific and social eugenics in 20th/21st century U.S. through historical, bioethical, critical race, Indigenous, gender, and disability frameworks. Attention to roles of medicine, law, and government in relation to eugenic techniques: sterilization, segregation, and marriage restriction as well as genetic technologies, land conservation, and immigration policy. Consideration of resistance to eugenics (moral, scientific, religious, artistic, political) and recent strategies of redress (apologies, renamings, financial reparations).  Opportunity to study chosen context/community in a final project.

  • Intersectionality in Bioethics

    BETH 762 - A new course available Spring 2024!
    NEW 2 credits

    This course introduces students to key concepts, critiques, and conversations around intersectionality. Although intersectionality is often used to help medical professionals better understand issues of identity and personhood, this seminar focuses on the importance of intersectionality for analyzing structures of domination. As historian of medicine Jules Gill-Peterson writes, for example, "gender is not exclusively an identity. It is one of the most highly policed social categories that grants and limits access to the shared world."  The seminar pays special attention to how "intersectional resistance movements" take shape in collective struggles for health justice and how they move beyond single-axis frameworks to challenge systems of violence. In the process, students will examine intersectional engagements with critical race theory, feminism, Marxism, disability justice, religion, migrant justice, and queer and trans liberation movements. The seminar will also explore how these critical intersectional interventions are conceptualized in Indigenous communities, especially those indigenous to Africa and the Americas. The seminar concludes by illuminating important tensions in intersectionality generating from recent scholarship at the intersection of Black studies, psychoanalysis, critical theory, and medical humanities.

  • Ethics and Regulation in Human Subject Research

    BETH 728 - A new course available Spring 2024!
    NEW 2 credits

    In the United States and in many other countries, human subjects research is governed by a framework of laws and regulations that are shaped by ethical principles; policy goals routinely guide the development of law, and the contemporary discourse on bioethical issues in clinical trials shapes policy goals.  The primary goals of the human subjects research regulatory framework are to protect the safety of study participants and ensure the integrity of research results. Whether a particular study is conducted ethically hinges in part on the contours of the scientists' professional responsibilities, the protection of study participants' individual rights, and whether the benefits of the knowledge gained by the study outweighs the risks that the study poses to its participants. This class will explore how law and bioethics converge or diverge in resolving certain questions raised by contemporary human subjects research, especially related to the tension between preserving individual autonomy and contributing to the broader public interest. Students will come away with a high-level understanding of the ethical and regulatory framework that applies to human subjects research and the ability to analyze current issues at the intersection of law and bioethics. The course will primarily explore United States law but will offer comparative examples to relevant international law as appropriate. 

  • Autonomy, Community, and Bioethics

    BETH 748 - A new course available in Spring 2024!
    NEW 2 credits

    Modern healthcare tends to conceptualize the medical patient as fundamentally a solitary, free-standing individual. Our bioethical deliberations, accordingly, tend to center the principle of patient autonomy, seeking to guard against the domination that comes with caregiver paternalism, or even the oppression of one's own community. Understandably so, few of us would wish to have our most consequential decisions made for us. But a serious examination of human experience tells us that autonomy is a complicated thing, nowhere near reducible to a lack of external coercion, or independence from the input of others. Rather, the goods we desire under the heading of autonomy - confidence, decisiveness, owning and being at peace with one's decisions - are only accessible to selves that have been forged and maintained in intimate interpersonal feedback loops; the best science of human development teaches us that independent, brave individuals are, perhaps counterintuitively, the products of intensive communal formation and support. Even further, there is reason to believe that much of the importance of health and illness for an individual consists in the power of these states to inculcate feelings of communal belonging or isolation. In short, medical patients are communal creatures all the way down, and we misunderstand them when we conceptualize and treat them as solitary consumers of medical services. The ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle famously referred to humans as "the political animal" - able to flourish only when embedded in the dense relational networks of the polis (city or town). As we will see in this course, Aristotle's assertion is increasingly being corroborated by cutting edge findings in neuroscience, psychology, developmental science and philosophy. This course will examine a broad swath of these findings, with the ultimate goal of imagining a bioethics that takes full account of our relational nature.