Program Requirements

The program consists of a total of four courses—three required and one elective course. The required courses are:

  • Introduction to Research Ethics (3 credits)
  • Regulatory Issues in Human Subject Research Protections (3 credits)
  • Current Topics in Research Ethics (3 credits)

For the elective, students can choose one of the following courses:

  • Justice and Healthcare (3 credits)
  • Philosophical Bioethics (3 credits)
  • Law and Bioethics (3 credits)

Participants may take one or two courses in a semester as fits their scheduling needs.

All of the courses of the certificate program are delivered via the Internet. The technical requirements are minimal, i.e., ability to use a Web-browser and email. Class discussions and case analyses are conducted primarily in non-real time, so students can participate at their convenience during each week. However, students are paced on a week-to-week basis just as in a campus course. Moreover, the pedagogical capabilities of the Web environment enhance the “class” discussions and allow for individualized instructor feedback, which empowers the learners and makes the courses truly student-centered.

Participants receive a Certificate in Research Ethics from the Medical College of Wisconsin’s Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences upon completion of the four courses. Each course is also worth graduate credit which may be applicable to the Bioethics MA degree.

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Course Descriptions

Core Curriculum (Required) Courses

Clinical Topics in Bioethics, Bioethics 10209 (3 credits)
This is a survey course covering various contemporary topics in bioethics, focusing on issues encountered in clinical practice. Areas to be studied include end-of-life decision making, the family in medical decision making, issues in clinical research, euthanasia, and pediatric issues.

Philosophical Bioethics, Bioethics 10210 (3 credits)
This course provides the critical basis for the ethical analysis of biomedical issues. It consists of lectures, seminar presentations, and class discussion of the foundations of moral philosophy, including the concept of morality, moral relativism, classical ethical theories, contemporary methods in bioethics, rights, justice, and the justification of moral beliefs.

Law and Bioethics, Bioethics 10223 (3 credits)
This course provides an introduction to legal principles and legal precedent relevant to issues in bioethics, aimed at providing the foundation for understanding relevant law concerning these issues.

If necessary:
Bioethics Consultation and Committees, Bioethics 10231 (1 credit)
Through attendance at ethics committee meetings and ethics consultations, this course will familiarize students with both the theoretical and practical aspects of institutional and consultative ethics.

Elective Courses

Justice and Healthcare, Bioethics 10203 (3 credits)
This course addresses some of the critical issues of bioethics as the principle and concept of justice relates to them. Topics include the concept of justice as it relates to health and health care, rationing, the form and substance of a national health policy, and managed care. The format of the course will consist of seminar presentations and class discussion.

Introduction to Research Ethics 10207 (3 credits)
This course will provide students with a comprehensive introduction to the ethical issues involved in scientific, animal, and human subjects research. After a brief look back at the history of research ethics, students will spend time considering issues that impact research in both the laboratory setting and in the clinical setting. This course provides the necessary research ethics instruction required to satisfy the United States Public Health Service Policy on Instruction in the Responsible Conduct of Research for institutions receiving research funds from the Department of Health and Human Services (issued December 1, 2000).

Ethics Beyond the Acute Care Setting, Bioethics 10211 (3 credits)
The course examines ethical issues in rehabilitation care, psychiatric care, hospice, long-term care, dental care and other settings. The focus is on developing a framework and language in which to discuss and analyze moral problems in these settings. The relevance of the four-principles approach and the adequacy of the doctrine of informed for these venues is explored. Care settings to be covered can vary with student interests.

Critical Approaches to Bioethics, Bioethics 10220 (3 credits)
This course builds upon the first semester course, Philosophical Bioethics. Various alternative approaches in ethics and biomedical ethics will be explored in order to provide a broad understanding of the range of critical social and philosophical thought on biomedical issues.

Religion and Bioethics, Bioethics 10225 (3 credits)
This course will examine the diverse range of religious resources that are pertinent to the field of bioethics. Students will explore topics in bioethics, such as euthanasia, abortion and informed consent, from the perspective of religious traditions.

Regulatory Issues in Human Subject Research Protections – Bioethics 10226 (3 credits)
There is no question that the fruits of research have fueled medical progress. Yet, the history of research involving human subjects is not unblemished. Federal regulations, based on ethical principles set forth in the Belmont Report, now govern much of the research undertaken in the United States. In this course, we will explore the history and substance of research regulations in the United States, the application of the regulations to specific research issues, and situations where the regulations do not provide clear guidance. Prerequisites: Bioethics 10207 or sufficient practical experience in research ethics as determined by the course instructor.

Current Topics in Research Ethics – Bioethics 10228 (3 credits)
Rapidly evolving scientific and technologic capabilities in medicine combined with an ever-increasing demand to translate these scientific developments to the bedside presents new challenges to regulating human subjects research. This course seeks to keep pace with many of these new and emerging challenges, providing students an opportunity to critically examine the ethical and legal implications of these topics. Specific topics for analysis will be drawn from the current medical literature, popular press, and evolving policy guidance. Prerequisites: Bioethics 10207 or sufficient practical experience in research ethics as determined by the course instructor.

Issues in Pediatric Ethics, Bioethics 10233 (3 credits)
This course is an advanced elective in pediatric ethics. The course will discuss the question of children's rights, the social value of children and cross-cultural issues of childhood. The objective of the course is to examine our individual assumptions about childhood and parenting that form the basis of approaches to pediatric ethics.

Ethics and Human Reproduction, Bioethics 10234 (3 credits)
This course will provide an opportunity for students to explore some of the ethical issues related to human reproduction, including assisted reproductive technologies, cryopreservation, genetics, and cloning. Students will also examine the various religious and philosophical arguments, as well as international perspectives, surrounding issues of human reproduction.

History and Meaning of Ethics and Professionalism in Medicine, Bioethics 10240 (3 credits)
Medical ethics and professionalism have meant many things to many people for literally thousands of years. This course explores in depth the history and meanings of medical ethics and medical professionalism from ancient times through contemporary challenges.

Special Topics in Bioethics, Bioethics 10275 (3 credits)
This course focuses on topics of special interest in bioethics. Examples of topics include organ donation and transplantation, autonomy and coercion, mental health care, and political issues in bioethics.

Reading and Research, Bioethics 10295 (1-3 credits)
This independent study course is available for all Master's degree-seeking students, and awards credit for pursuing background reading and new research in areas of particular student interest.

Masters Consultation, Bioethics 10297 (1 credit Summer, 2 credits Fall, Spring)
This course will familiarize and train students in the theoretical and practical aspects of ethics consultation through a seminar, supervised practical experience in doing ethics consultations, and writing summaries and reporting these consultations at monthly ethics committee meetings. The goal of this course is to prepare the student to meet the evolving national certification qualifications for clinical ethics consultation.

Bioethics Journal Club, Bioethics 10298 (1 credit)
The journal club is a student and faculty forum for the discussion of a variety of current and emerging issues in bioethics. The informal setting allows for open discussion and debate.

Master's Thesis, Bioethics 10299 (6 credits total)
All degree-seeking students are required to undertake and complete a project culminating in a Master's Thesis. This project is directed by a member of the program faculty. Scholarly, qualitative, quantitative, and pedagogical projects are acceptable, with the approval of each student's faculty advisor and thesis committee.

Areas of Emphasis

The core curriculum of the MA program is designed to establish a general level of knowledge in all areas of bioethics, with the student then deepening exposure to a wide variety of other areas through the selection of elective courses and the thesis or final paper topic. The purpose of the areas of emphasis is to allow students to pursue an area of bioethics that is of particular personal interest or professional importance. The areas of emphasis described below serve as examples. Students are welcome to pursue other areas of emphasis with the guidance of the Director of Graduate Studies.

A clinical bioethics emphasis focuses on the academic background and clinical training necessary to develop skills in clinical ethics, both at the bedside and within institutional ethics committees. This area is likely to be of interest to health care professionals, although other interested individuals with sufficient medical background may also choose to pursue it.

A legal bioethics emphasis focuses on the issues of intersection between the law and bioethics. In addition to grounding in the fundamental concepts of bioethics, students in this area examine what U.S. law has done and can do in the area of bioethics. This area is viewed as appealing primarily to attorneys and others involved in the study or practice of law, but also may be of interest to legislators, legislative staff, policy analysts, and other policy-oriented professionals.

A humanities emphasis focuses on the relationship between theory and practice. Students interested in this area study the major innovations that contemporary bioethicists have made in ethical theory. Students who focus in this area often pursue further study in philosophy, literature, medical humanities, or cultural studies and take an academic career path.