The Bioethics Certification program curriculum features select courses from the Master’s of Science in Bioethics program. It has been tailored to advance students’ knowledge and skills for working in bioethics, using a multi-disciplinary approach that draws on medicine, law, philosophy, history, sociology, religion, and other fields.

Courses focus on key areas including the history and philosophy of bioethics, clinical ethics, research ethics, law and bioethics, and neuroethics. They are offered online and are available in both credit and noncredit versions, making it possible for students worldwide to study with distinguished leaders in the field.

The 12-point program includes seven possible courses. Students are required to complete History of Bioethics and Philosophy of Bioethics, then choose two of the remaining five courses. Students who complete four or more courses with a 3.0 (B) or better in each course are awarded a Certification of Professional Achievement in Bioethics. Students are required to maintain an overall minimum GPA of 3.0 (B). Every course creditable toward the certification must be taken for a letter grade. Courses with a grade below a C will not count toward the completion of the certification. Students may also apply to the program and take individual courses without pursuing a certification.

Spring 2017 Course Availability

  Monday Tuesday Wednesday
9:00 to 10:30 a.m.     Introduction to Clinical Ethics*
4:30 to 6:00 p.m. Introduction to Clinical Ethics*    
5:30 to 7:00 p.m.   History of Bioethics Global Ethics
7:30 to 9:00 p.m.     Law & Bioethics

Fall 2017 Course Availability

  Monday Tuesday Wednesday
4:30 to 6:00 p.m.   Introduction to Clinical Ethics*  
6:00 to 7:30 p.m.   Research Ethics  
7:00 to 9:00 p.m. Philosophy of Bioethics    
7:30 to 9:00 p.m.     Philosophy of Bioethics

* Philosophy of Bioethics is a prerequisite for Introduction to Clinical Ethics with one exception: the student obtains instructor permission based on relevant prior expertise/coursework.

Required Courses

Additional Courses: Choose Two

BIET PS5300. History of Bioethics. 3 pts.


This course is designed to introduce students to the historical development of bioethics as an intellectual endeavor, a set of professional practices, and an institution. The organization of the course is both chronological and thematic. Over the span of the semester, students are presented with a narrative account of how bioethical ideas and practices developed in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, with individual sessions organized around critical issues and episodes that shaped this development. By the end of the course students are able to identify and analyze the forces that have influenced the evolution of bioethics over the past two centuries. We pay close attention both to the advances in science and technology (such as dialysis and transplantation) that raised new ethical challenges and to the social, cultural, political, and legal context within which these advances emerged. Readings for the course comprise a mixture of historical analyses and primary documents, including seminal court rulings.

BIET PS5320. Philosophy of Bioethics. 3 pts.


In contemporary bioethics, we find ourselves grappling with practically important, and at the same time, philosophically fundamental questions such as: When does someone’s life begin and how should it end? What is the proper role of physicians, nurses and other health care providers and what are the rights of their patients? What is a just and fair way to provide access to health-care services and resources? Which potential uses of new genetic and reproductive technologies would represent a legitimate advance in medicine and which would signify the beginning of a humanly degrading "brave new world"? Indeed, in a society committed to protecting a diversity of lifestyles and opinions, how can citizens resolve significant policy controversies such as whether there should be public funding of human embryonic stem cell research, or a legally protected right to physician assistance in ending one’s life?

The aims of this course are to identify the fundamental ethical questions that underlie contemporary biomedical practice; develop skill in analyzing and clarifying key concepts such as autonomy, justice, health and disease; critically assess the healthcare implications of different ethical outlooks; explore how citizens can reasonably address controversial bioethical issues in a mutually respectful and constructive way.

The course meets once a week online for an hour and a half. Live-session interaction and post-session discussion forums play a key role as students explore, in a give-and-take spirit, the pros and cons of each position.

This course is designed for medical students, nursing students, and other healthcare professionals, as well as for students at the graduate or advanced undergraduate level in biology, philosophy, political science, public health, law, and related fields.

BIET PS5330. Law and Bioethics. 3 pts.

This course introduces students to selected legal and policy texts that have addressed issues in bioethics and shaped their development. Students will explore and contrast legal reasoning and bioethical analysis, often of the same issues. By the end of the course, students will understand the legal or regulatory status of selected issues and have begun to independently navigate major legal, regulatory, and policy texts. Individual sessions will be focused around particular issues or questions that have been addressed by (usually) American courts and/or in legislation, regulation or policy, and that have been the subject of scholarship and debate within bioethics.

The course begins with a theoretical look at the relationship between law and ethics, and includes a brief introduction to legal decision-making and policy development. We then survey a range of bioethics issues that have been addressed by the courts and/or in legislation, regulation, or significant policy documents, contrasting and comparing legal argument and reasoning with arguments utilized in the bioethics literature.

BIET PS5400. Introduction to Clinical Ethics. 3 pts.


While this course is designed to introduce students to the fundamentals of clinical ethics and the basic terminology and framework of ethical analysis in biomedical ethics, it offers a more sociological perspective, putting the contemporary clinical issues into a broader context. After an introductory course on the development of clinical ethics and its impact on hospital care and doctor-patient relationships, on the prevailing autonomy norm and its critique, the course focuses on issues encountered in clinical practice such as informed consent, patient capacity, decision-making, end of life, advance directives, medical futility, pediatrics ethics, maternal-fetal conflicts, organ transplantation, cultural competence, diversity of beliefs, and others.


BIET PS5320. Philosophy of Bioethics. Exception: the student obtains instructor permission based on relevant prior expertise/coursework.

BIET PS5440. Global Ethics. 3 pts.


Increasingly, issues of medical research and clinical care are posing complex ethical issues not only in the United States, but in other countries in both the industrialized and the developing world. Yet varying economic, political, social, cultural, and historical contexts shape these issues. In diverse contexts in Asia, Africa, Europe and North and South America, practices and policies, along with cultures and moral values, differ enormously. Yet ethical issues are arising not in isolation, but as part of global communities and discourses. In research, multinational pharmaceutical companies are increasingly conducting studies in both industrialized countries and the developing world, posing numerous ethical tensions. In clinical care, uses of reproductive technologies differ across national borders, leading to “reproductive tourism”. End of life care varies widely, reflecting in part differing attitudes toward death and dying. This course examines the political, economic, social, cultural, philosophical, medical, and historical roots and implications of these issues.

The course meets once a week online for an hour and a half, and offers extensive live-session interaction and post-session discussion forums to explore the various bioethical issues contemplated throughout the semester.

BIET PS5450. Research Ethics. 3 pts.


In recent years, many crucial issues have arisen concerning research ethics. Scientists in biomedicine, social science and other areas, as well as policy makers face rapidly evolving challenges. In recent years, violations of research ethics have attracted attention from the public, the media, the government, and the scientific community, which have all responded in varying ways. Issues arise in deciding how best to protect human subjects, obtain informed consent, protect privacy and confidentiality, finance research without biasing results, and avoid “misbehavior” among scientists. Questions arise concerning the professional responsibilities and rights of scientists, the rights of study participants, and the appropriate role of the state in these matters.

The course meets online once a week for an hour and a half, with extensive interaction between students and the professor both during class and on post-class discussion forums. It can fulfill the requirements for Responsible Conduct of Research that the NIH and other funders currently mandate for training programs that they support.

The University reserves the right to withdraw or modify the courses of instruction or to change the instructors as may become necessary.