Bioethics as a Field
The first national code of medical ethics was adopted in Philadelphia in 1847, but biomedical ethics as a modern field of study and as an area of professional practice is just 30 years old. Bioethicists reflect on clinical practice, medical research, the relationship of medicine to society, and changes in health care practice and policy. They may consider and advise on crucial social and individual concerns such as:
- informed consent in research and treatment
- confidentiality and the doctor-patient relationship
- cultural and religious diversity among patients and practitioners
- suffering, death and dying
- experimentation and new technologies in health care and science
- reproductive technologies
- access to and allocation of medical resources
- intellectual property
- regulatory affairs
Despite the growing importance of these issues in our lives, bioethics should not be conceived of as a separate job category or specialty within health care, administration, the law, or policy work. The MBE is not intended as a first professional degree. Instead, the program is designed to combine bioethics with another discipline or with professional practice.
Bioethics, by its nature, is a subject that crosses traditional boundaries between academic disciplines. The advanced study of bioethics at Penn brings together liberal arts disciplines including philosophy, history and sociology of science, psychology, sociology, and anthropology, with the expertise of Penn's professional schools including Medicine, Law, Wharton, and Nursing. The MBE program is designed to provide its graduates with the interdisciplinary training they will need in order to address the moral challenges in health care today and tomorrow.
The MBE is designed for the following audiences:
- Mid-career and senior health care professionals, including lawyers, physicians, nurses, health care administrators, pharmaceutical employees, social workers, those working in public policy or regulatory affairs, dentists, veterinarians, other allied health professionals, and other practitioners and teachers who wish to expand their area of competency to include bioethics;
- Students already enrolled or admitted to a Penn graduate or professional degree program, such as medicine, law, nursing, or a PhD program, who want to combine bioethics with their primary training;
- Post-baccalaureate students with a special interest in the field who plan further graduate study in law, medicine, humanities, or social sciences. This degree is not sufficient training for job placement.
9 courses are required for the MBE degree:
- Proseminar: Introduction to Bioethics (BIOE 601). This course is intended to serve as a broad introduction to the field of bioethics. The course focuses on three of the most important areas in bioethics: genetics and reproduction, human experimentation, and end-of-life care. Each module covers essential bioethics concepts, relevant legal cases, and classic readings on that theme.
- Conceptual Foundations (BIOE 602). This course examines the various theoretical approaches to bioethics and critically assesses their underpinnings. Topics include: an examination of various deontological theories, utilitarianism, virtue ethics, principalism, casuistry, feminist ethics, narrative theory, and pragmatism.
- 6 electives
- Final Project (BIOE 996). A research project that results in a publishable quality paper.
For students who work in the field of clinical ethics, we offer a certificate program as a supplement to the MBE degree.
12 courses are required under this option
(an additional 3 courses over the requirements for the MBE degree).
What do graduates do with their MBE?
- Proseminar: Introduction to Bioethics (BIOE 601) as described above.
- Conceptual Foundations (BIOE 602) as described above.
- Mediation (BIOE 540)
- 2 Online courses offered through the Alden March Bioethics Institute in Albany, NY (Spring semester)
- 2 1-week on-site courses in Albany, NY (early June)
- 5 electives
Most of our mid-career professionals use this degree to enhance and inform the work they do in their chosen career.
Our graduates working in
the allied health professions use their degree to enhance their clinical practice and academic scholarship.
The majority of our JD's and JD/MBE students move to firms specializing in health law, biotech law, intellectual property and patent law, and malpractice. Some also go on to pharmaceutical industry or hospital counsel, and a few move to policy work.
The majority of our post-baccalaureate students go on to earn an MD, JD, PhD, or other graduate degree.