The study of bioethics incorporates ethical questions that are at the heart of medicine, law, biology and public policy. Courses are offered at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Some schools have degree programs in bioethics, while other institutions offer bioethics classes through departments such as philosophy. Medical students, and biology majors may study bioethics, as well as those studying health-care law and public policy. Courses cover the ethical issues that health-care workers face, ways to council patients about health care decisions, laws related to biological and medical research and health issues in public policy. Here are some common concepts found in bioethics courses:
- Biological research
- Ethics committees
- Clinical practice
- Legal analysis
- Biomedical science
List of Bioethics Courses
Bioethics Overview Course
This introductory course examines ethical issues related to biotechnology and health care, including abortion, assisted suicide, genetic counseling and new reproductive technologies. Students explore hypothetical and actual cases of bioethical dilemmas. Viewpoints examined include those of health professionals, theologians, lawmakers and laypeople.
Students in this course are introduced to the subdiscipline of clinical bioethics, which encompasses ethical problems that arise in clinical health care settings. This might include discussion of environmental and research ethics, as well as a patient's role in making decisions about his or her own health. Emphasis is placed on professional conduct, conflicts of interest, cultural diversity and relationships among medical professionals.
This course focuses on ethical challenges surrounding the relationship among technology, medicine and the law. Participants study key cases that have helped form the legal and social parameters of bioethics today, as well as instances in which the law failed to uphold ethical norms. Possible topics include elder law, medical malpractice, organ transplantation and resource allocation. National health care reform and state health care laws may also be addressed.
Public Policy Course
Issues of bioethics are intrinsically intertwined with public policy, both in the U.S. and internationally. Students in this course examine past and current public policy issues, such as end-of-life decisions, informed consent and privacy, as well as exploring citizens' obligations and legal and ethical rights with regard to government. Specific areas of study may include the Human Genome Initiative, Roe v. Wade and the 20th-century eugenics movement.