Master of Arts
Required Courses | Elective Courses
The Master of Arts in Bioethics Program provides advanced training for professionals, academics, and other interested individuals in health care, law, the humanities, and public policy who wish to become prepared for teaching, research, policy development, and/or clinical work in the field of bioethics. The program curriculum consists of an unprecedented combination of theoretical and clinical course offerings that help students develop the skills and understanding necessary to analyze and address the difficult ethical issues encountered in health care today.
The program can be completed through either a traditional, campus-based curriculum or through an innovative, online curriculum that makes advanced education in bioethics available to individuals in almost any location throughout the world. The traditional Master of Arts curriculum requires at least one year of study on the campus of the Medical College of Wisconsin. The executive-style Master of Arts curriculum requires participation in a minimum of one summer intensive session on campus. The remaining credits are completed online.
Program Admissions Requirements
In addition to the general Graduate School admission requirements, this program has additional specific requirements.
Interested individuals from all disciplines and backgrounds with a commitment to the field of bioethics are encouraged to apply.
This program will accept comparable MCAT, LSAT or other professional school entrance exam scores in lieu of the GRE. Applicants with a PhD, JD, or MD degree from an accredited institution may request a waiver of the standardized test score requirement.
Program Degree Requirements
The Master of Arts in Bioethics Program has three main components: (1) the Core Curriculum, (2) the Clinical Bioethics Experience, and (3) the Master’s Thesis or Final Paper.
The core curriculum consists of three required courses (9 credits) in Philosophical Bioethics (10210), Clinical Topics in Bioethics (10209), and Law and Bioethics (10223).
Clinical Bioethics Experience
The clinical bioethics experience requirement can be satisfied either through proven professional experience in clinical ethics or through taking a one-credit course on clinical ethics committees and consultation.
Master’s Thesis or Final Paper
Students can choose to write the Master’s Thesis (6 credits) or write a final paper of publishable quality.
All students are required to complete a minimum of thirty credits, including the core curriculum. Once the core curriculum (10209, 10210, 10223) has been completed, each student will complete a written comprehensive examination. When all of the course credit requirements have been met, the Comprehensive Exam has been completed successfully, and the Master’s thesis or final paper submitted, the Program will be completed by means of a successful oral defense of either the Master’s thesis or the final paper.
10209 Clinical Topics in Bioethics. 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.
10210 Philosophical Bioethics. 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 justifications of moral beliefs.
10223 Law and Bioethics. 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.
10231 Bioethics Consulting and Committees. 1 credit. Through attendance of ethics committee meetings and ethics consultations, this course will familiarize students with both the theoretical and practical aspects of institutional and consultative ethics. This course is required for students with no professional experience in clinical bioethics.
10200 Clinical Bioethics I. 3 credits.
This course provides an introduction to medical ethics in the clinical setting. It consists of daily rounds with various medical or surgical teams in selected hospital treatment areas, plus a weekly session to discuss and analyze issues encountered. Enrollment limited.
10201 Medical Ethics. 3 credits.
This course familiarizes students with the theoretical and philosophical aspects of the varied topics in medical ethics. It provides an important foundation for further study of bioethics, focusing on the principles of bioethics and some salient legal and clinical cases. The format includes lectures, followed by small-group discussions. In the second year, graduate students are able to act as a small-group discussion leader for this course. In this way, the student gains valuable experience in the teaching of bioethics.
10203 Justice and Healthcare. 3 credits.
This course addresses some of the critical issues of bioethics as the principle and concept of justice relate to them. Topics include the concept of justice as it relates to health and health care, rationing, the form and substance of national health policy, and managed care.
10205 Introduction to Hospital Medicine. 3 credits.
This course provides an introduction to human pathophysiology and the functioning of a contemporary medical center. It consists of discussions of human pathophysiology and discussions with hospital professionals about their role in patient care.
10206 Ethics and the Law. 3 credits.
This course explores the legal and ethical issues impacting physician conduct, regulation, and professionalism. The course will provide a general overview of the various factors that influence physician conduct and regulation, such as codes of ethics, licensing requirements, the court system, and ethics mechanisms such as ethics committee and institutional review boards.
10207 Introduction to Research Ethics. 3 credits.
This course provides 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.)
10211 Ethics Beyond the Acute Care Hospital. 3 credits.
This 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. Care settings to be covered may vary.
10220 Critical Approaches to Bioethics. 3 credits.
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.
10222 Ethics and Integrity in Science. 1 credit.
This course provides the basis for understanding the ethical issues related to basic scientific and medical research, including animal and human subject research, fraud and misconduct, and governmental, institutional, and researcher responsibilities.
10225 Religion and Bioethics. 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 perspectives of various religious traditions.
10226 Regulatory Issues in Human Subjects Research Protections. 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.
10228 Current Topics in Research Ethics. 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.
10233 Issues in Pediatric Ethics. 3 credits.
This 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.
10234 Ethics and Human Reproduction. 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, genetics, and cloning. Students will also examine the various religious and philosophical arguments, as well as international perspectives, surrounding issues of human reproduction.
10240 The History and Meaning of Ethics and Professionalism in Medicine. 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.
10275 Special Topics in Bioethics. 3 credits.
This course focuses on topics of special interest in bioethics. Examples of topics include research ethics, ethical issues in mental health, and political issues in bioethics and public health.
10291 Teaching Medical Ethics. 3 credits.
This course will develop the theoretical foundation and practical application of educating students in medical ethics, including systematic design of instruction, utilizing needs assessments, and the various methods of instruction. The course includes a practicum in application of methods of small-group instruction.
10295 Reading and Research. 1-3 credits.
This independent study course is available to all Master’s degree-seeking students, and awards credit for pursuing background reading and new research in areas of particular student interest.
10297 Master’s Consultation. 1-2 credits.
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.
10298 Bioethics Journal Club. 1 credit.
This journal club is a student and faculty forum for the discussion of a variety of contemporary issues in bioethics. Its informal setting allows for open discussion on wide-ranging topics.
10299 Master’s Thesis. 3-6 credits.
Students may choose to undertake and complete research culminating in a master’s thesis. Both scholarly and quantitative research are acceptable. This research is directed by a member of the Bioethics faculty.
10444 Research Ethics Discussion Series. 1 credit. Prerequisite: 10222 Ethics and Integrity in Science.
The course covers major topics in research ethics as they apply to biological scientists. The 10 sessions, each running an hour and a half, are moderated by a Co-Director of the course and a faculty member of the Center for Bioethics. Sessions begin with a brief overview of the topic provided by a faculty member with expertise in that area. Such presentations may include a case study to provide a basis for further discussion. The initial presentation is followed by comments from a panel of three or four faculty members who will discuss the topic from their particular perspective and experience. The remaining minutes of each session are used for an open discussion in which students have an opportunity to ask both focused and general questions related to the topic. Discussion of the questions involves students, panel members and moderators. Topics covered include: plagiarism, experimental design and data collection, data manipulation, publication and authorship, sharing information and reagents, animal use, patient/human subject interactions, IRBs, whistle blowing and conflicts of interest. Performance is assessed through an online, multiple-choice quiz that is completed within two days following each session.