Center for Biomedical Ethics

Concentration in Biomedical Ethics

We are pleased to announce two seminars for academic year 2005/2006!

BMET 1500D  Objectivity and Its Loss (Fall 2005)

The nature and limits of clinical and scientific objectivity in the context of biomedical practices and institutions.  Topics will include: conceptions of objectivity, conflicts of interest, sources of inappropriate influence (e.g. economic, governmental, ideological), individual ethical failings (e.g. fraud, misconduct, incompetence), cognitive limitations, and other psychological, linguistic, and social sources of error and bias. Emphasis on identifying strategies for counteracting the various threats to objectivity.

Prerequisites: 1 course in Human Biology and 1 course in Ethics.
Enrollment limited; permission required.
Prof. Poland 

BMET 1500B Controversial Issues in Mental Health Practice (Spring 2006)

Examination of controversies involving scientific, clinical, and social practices concerning mental illness. Topics will include: classification and diagnosis (e.g. Is mental illness a myth? Can mental health professionals distinguish normality from abnormality? Is psychiatric classification useful? Is there a gender bias in psychiatric classification?), the nature of specific psychiatric conditions (e.g. attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, depression, schizophrenia), treatment issues (e.g. giving psychiatric medications to children, electroconvulsive therapy), and socio-legal issues (e.g. competence to stand trial, insanity defense, involuntary treatment, duty to warn).

Prerequisites: 1 course in Human Biology and 1 course in Ethics.
Enrollment limited; permission required.
Prof. Poland  

For permission form: E-mail

For advising questions:

This is a truly interdisciplinary concentration, which includes courses drawn from the sciences, humanities, and social sciences. It is unique in that very few universities across the country offer this subject as a concentration. About half the concentrators are pre-med, others are pre-law, and others are heading toward careers in allied health professions such as hospital administration or public policy, journalism, or teaching. Graduates with this concentration have been accepted at the top medical schools, law schools, and other professional graduate schools. A number of undergraduates and graduates have held internships in Bioethics at such places as the American Medical Association, the National Institute of Health, and Hastings Center.

The number of concentrators is fairly small and Bioethics seminars are limited to about 20 students each. Students are expected to participate fully in class discussion. The issues are all debatable and the goal is to become informed about the medical, scientific, and historical background and develop skills in ethical analysis and logical argumentation.

Students who take a semester abroad can sometimes find relevant courses, but need to plan ahead.
Students with excellent records can become Honors candidates and work individually with a faculty member.

Course requirements for the concentration:

  • 2 courses in human Biology
  • 2 courses in basic Ethics
  • 2 Bioethics seminars
  • 4 related courses

Seminars in recent years have included topics such as: Religion and Morality, Ethical Issues in Pediatric Medicine, Topics in Bioethics (e.g. assisted reproduction and cloning, death and dying, organ transplant), Justice and the Health Care System.

Some of the seminars are team-taught with faculty from Philosophy and from the Medical School.

Related courses include: Literature and Medicine, Health Care in Developing Nations, Sociology of Medicine, The Faces of Cancer.

Click here for more information, including specific course requirements and the requirements for graduating with Honors in biomedical ethics.

Concentration advisor: Professor Jeffrey Poland,