Students in the Certificate program are required to complete a total of four three-credit online courses (total of twelve credits). Three of these courses are required and one course is of the student's choosing.

The Core Curriculum is:​


  • Philosophical Bioethics (3 credits)
  • Clinical Topics in Bioethics (3 credits)
  • Law and Bioethics (3 credits)

These required courses provide students with knowledge of the necessary philosophical, clinical and legal foundations of clinical bioethics.

For the elective course, students choose one course from among the following selection of approved and offered courses, with the guidance of an advisor:

  • Justice & Healthcare (3 credits)
  • Introduction to Research Ethics (3 credits)
  • Issues in Pediatric Ethics (3 credits)
  • The History and Meaning of Ethics and Professionalism in Medicine (3 credits)
  • Special Topics in Bioethics (3 credits; topics may include neuroethics, chronic illnesses, end of life)

All courses of the Certificate program are delivered in an online format. Classes are conducted in non-real time, so students can participate at their convenience during each week of the course. Students are paced on a week-to-week basis just as in a traditional course on campus. Moreover, the pedagogical capabilities of the online environment enhance the course discussions and allow for more individualized instructor feedback. This program empowers the learners to find resources and make the courses truly student-centered.

Students may take one or two courses per semester as fits their scheduling needs. For more information on these courses, please see the course descriptions below.

Students receive a Certificate in Clinical Bioethics upon completion of all four courses. Graduate credits accumulated in this program may be applicable toward the Master of Arts degree at the Medical College of Wisconsin. Students interested in pursuing the MA degree must apply to the degree program prior to completing the Certificate program.

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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 Curriculum

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).


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.


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.