Undergraduate Minor in Healthcare Ethics

This Minor will focus on moral values and ethical dilemmas in regard to health, disease and healthcare. It will articulate these values and ethical queries in recognition of a diversity of approaches and attentive to global concerns. It will cultivate analysis and reflection on fundamental human conditions such as health, well-being, and human flourishing but also illness, disability, and suffering. The emphasis on values such as respect for human life, human dignity, human rights, and social justice will guide the development of students, encourage them to serve others and contribute to their professions, and reinforces values that give meaning to life and work. The Minor will be particularly interesting for student who are planning to work patients and health professionals, and who pursue a career in healthcare, nursing and health sciences.


3 required courses plus 2 electives: 15 credit hours total:
• Course UCOR 254, UCOR 253 or UCOR 255 (healthcare ethics)
• Course HCE 410 (clinical ethics)
• Course HCE 320 (research and science ethics) or HCE 330 (global bioethics)
• Electives: various courses on ethical issues in healthcare in various departments and schools or Independent Study

Core theme areas

Ethics (Courses 253, 254 and 255: 3 credits)
Global Diversity (3 credits): Course 330
Social Justice (3 credits): Courses 410 and 320

The advantage of the Minor

- Be aware that in most programs students already have to follow UCOR Courses or other Ethics courses. These courses can be included in (and even grandfathered into) the Minor program.
- All required courses will satisfy requirements in the University Core.
- Every core course of the minor will be offered at least once every year to ensure that students who sign on in their sophomore or junior years will be able to complete the course in time for graduation. Students will be able to complete the minor within two years.

Curricular structure

HCE 253 or HCE 254 or HCE 255

HCE 410

HCE 320 or HCE 330

Elective Elective/independent study

Learning Outcomes

1. to give students a theoretical and practical understanding of the ethical challenges of present-day health and healthcare;
2. to prepare students for the future where they will face ethical questions regarding health and disease, care and cure, treatment and prevention;
3. to enable students to think, write and speak clearly and critical on these challenges and questions, clarifying the moral values in the context of globalization and human rights.

Required courses

3 credits UCOR 255 (Healthcare Ethics), UCOR-254 (Philosophy), UCOR-253 (Theology)

UCOR 255: Health Care Ethics (Center for Healthcare Ethics)
The course provides a general introduction in healthcare ethics as well as the main topics of contemporary discussion.

UCOR 254: Health Care Ethics (Department of Philosophy)
Ethical questions that arise in medical care and research will be examined. Topics might include: doctor / patient relations, informed consent, euthanasia, the definitions of health, person, and death. Core discipline: Ethics.

UCOR 253: Health Care Ethics (Department of Theology)
A study of practical and theoretical issues in the ethics of health care. Issues include life and death questions, professional-patient relationships, and moral aspects of the health care professions. Core discipline: Theology

3 credits HCE-410: Clinical ethics: Who decides when I am ill? (Center for Healthcare Ethics)
It is generally believed that people should be able to decide for themselves when and which medical treatment they will take. However, there are many instances in which other people make medical decisions. This happens, for instance, when people are mentally incapacitated by accident or disease. But it also happens in cases of compulsory vaccinations and when people are quarantined against their will in order to prevent the spread of contagious diseases. In this course, we will study these cases and explore various ways of analyzing them. Core area: Social justice.

3 credits HCE-320: Medical Research; Guinea Pig or Duty to Participate (Center for Healthcare Ethics)
Health and health care are significantly improved due to research: clinical trials to test new drugs, public health surveys, biobanking, and data interpretation. Nowadays, many studies are carried out abroad. Ethical problems continuously emerge, particularly when human beings are involved as research subjects. But questions also arise in regard to the conduct of researchers, for example in publications. The course invites students into an in-depth analysis of ethical issues surrounding health research and science. The course also examines ethical issues in research with animals and chimeras. Core Theme Area: Social Justice


3 credits HCE-330: Global Bioethics (Center for Healthcare Ethics)
Healthcare is delivered in various areas of the world. People have similar diseases and illnesses but different interpretations of health and suffering. Also how they respond to medical challenges will depend on ethical values within specific religious and cultural contexts. Organ donation, commercial motherhood, and euthanasia are therefore approached in very different ways across the world. Given this diversity, is it possible to identify common ethical values that can lead to a global response to ethical challenges? This course will assess bioethical cases, study audio-visual sources and listen to relevant religious stories from all over the world. Core area: Global Diversity

Elective courses

Two 3 credits Elective courses (with the possibility of including an Independent Study). The elective courses provided by a range of departments and schools facilitate a focus on various relevant dimensions: historical background, social and policy context, global religious and cultural settings, and legal context.

HCE/AFST 240 African Perspectives to Bioethics (3 credits; HCE/ Center for African Studies)
This course introduces students to African cultures and to alternative approaches in bioethics discourse. It explores theoretical as well as practical issues in the field of bioethics from the African perspectives. The course intends to make students appreciate non-Western perspectives, thus equipping them for discourse on global bioethical issues. Subjects covered include: sources of African ethics; the Role of Community in African Bioethics; the impact of African Traditional Religion on African Bioethics; Foundations of Contemporary African Bioethics; Concept of health and illness, and Healing; Ethical Principles; Justice and just distribution of healthcare, Relational autonomy in informed consent (RAIC); Character and Moral virtues; The care of earth and environment in African worldview; issues at beginning of life; attitudes to reproductive technologies; human experimentation; euthanasia and end-of-life questions; and the just distribution of healthcare and healthcare policy. Core area: Social justice.

HIST 222: Flatlined: History and Politics of U.S. Healthcare (3 credits; Department of History)
This course will explore the development of American health care policy over the course of the 20th century, and situate its development within the political, economic, and social contexts that influence policy outcomes. Key areas that this course will explore are the history of health care reform including the Affordable Care Act, Medicare and Medicaid, and the development of private health insurance. It will also address the question of whether or not access to affordable and safe health care is a basic right for all Americans. Students will conclude the class by suggesting solutions to the problem of divergent health care access and divergent health outcomes for underserved communities and groups. Core area: Social justice.

UCOR-143-03: Global and Cultural Perspectives (3 credits; Department of Theology)
The course examines the religious insights of peoples and groups in the contemporary world: Native American, Mexican, African religions; Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, Zoroastrianism, Jainism, Judaism, Christianity and Islam - how would living and practicing these religions make humans better people. Core area: Global diversity.

THEO 283: Judaism, Christianity and Islam (3 credits; Department of Theology)
This is an introduction to the three major religions of the West (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam). The objectives of the course include: to understand the historical developments of the three religions; to identify the significant impacts of the earlier religion(s) on the succeeding one(s); to understand the commonalities shared by all three religions; to appreciate the role and necessity for dialogue between the religions toward a more peaceful co-existence in society.

PHYT 421: Principles of Practice III: Ethical, Moral, and Legal Issues (1 credit; Physical Therapy)
Principles of Practice III: Ethical, Moral, and Legal Issues builds on knowledge, skills, and behaviors required in the previous POP cources of PHYT 301 Principles of Practice I: Introduction to Physical Therapy; and PHYT 460 Principles of Practice II: Social and Cultural Issues. The student is introduced to the application of specific aspects of clinical physical therapy practice, with a focus on ethical issues in physical therapy, documentation, professional development, the patient-provider relationship, and the interdisciplinary health care team. Principles of Practice III: Ethical, Moral, and Legal Issues is the third in a series of four interrelated cources that focus on professionalism, the patient-provider relationship, the patient interview and evaluation, and providing care that is ethical, compassinate, culturally competent, professional, and exceptional. The theme of the POP cource series is "The best interest of the patient is the only interest to be considered." The knowledge and skills learned in this course will be used as a framework for the final course in this series and during clinical education.

PLCR 541: Healthcare Ethics and Public Policy (3 credits; Department of Sociology)
This course considers moral theory, critical thinking as the basis for ethical reasoning, the relationship between healthcare professionals and patients, abortion and maternal-fetal conflicts, genetic engineering, reproductive technologies and closing, human and animal experimentation, organ transplantation, euthanasia and end of life decisions, HIV and AIDS, and challenges in healthcare policy and reform. The course also looks at how our public policies affect and should affect our struggle for equitable practices in healthcare. Case studies, memoirs, and documentaries supplement the introductory text.

SOCI 207: Sociology of Health and Illness (3 credits; Department of Sociology)
This course examines individual human health within social contexts and the role of social factors in our definitions and perceptions of health and illness. Students will explore how social policy may influence collective health and the health of its individual residents when informed by notions of social justice and respect for human dignity.

UPNS 411: Nursing Ethics across the Lifespan (3 credits; School of Nursing)
This course introduces undergraduate nursing students to ethical dimension of nursing practice. It presents the processes of moral reasoning and ethical theories, values, virtues, principles and other influences on the student's capacity to recognize, identify and respond to potential and actual ethical issues. The course examines contemporary professional and clinical ethics issues that influence nursing practice, and to a lesser degree, it introduces students to ethical issues at the organizational level in health care. The relationships between ethical and legal principles are also examined. Various models of ethical decision-making are explored as students apply these frameworks to resolve ethical dilemmas. Students will also examine the role of professional codes of ethics and the legal standards that influence the ethical practice of nurses.

HLTM 477: Legal Issues in Health Care (3 credits; School of Health Sciences)
This course will educate students intending to embark on a health-care related career on a wide-range of legal issues in the context of the health care industry. Topics will include practitioner licensing, HIPAA, professional liability lawsuits, and a general overview of the court system. Although not specifically covered in the text, the instructor will spend some time covering current relevant issues before the courts, particularly with regard to Pennsylvania law, such as corporate liability, the "Apology law," tort reform, peer review privilege, and arbitration agreements in healthcare-related cases.

HLTS 200: Disparities in Healthcare (3 credits; School of Health Sciences)
This course will provide a borad introduction into cukltural themes of health, illness and healthcare by critically reviewing existing social inequalities and cultural perceptions. While basic biological explanations for health and disease will be considered in this course, the class materials and discussions will focus on the health consequences of socioeconomic status, race, religion and gender. Students will learn of past atrocities in medical experimentation (e.g. the Tuskegee Experiment) and relate them to modern research. Differences in the quality of healthcare delivered to racial/ethnic groups will be explored in an attempt to explain why health disparities exist in the United States. Students will also be challenged to consider how they may be eliminated. Theme area: Social justice.

SLP 245: Disabilities across the World: A Search for Dignity (3 credits; School of Health Sciences)
This course challenges students to consider individuals with disabilities within the context of social justice and dignity. The course focuses on how disabilities are perceived across the world's cultures and societies, the consequences of those perceptions, and the historical, political, and economic forces which perpetuate them. The goals and missions of some of the agencies and movements dedicated to addressing disabilities across the globe are explored. Through large class discussions, book readings, videos and individual assignments, students engage in self-reflection about their personal assumptions and beliefs about individuals with disabilities as well as the ethical problems these assumptions bring to our social interactions with other people. Several classes conducted online through Blackboard using Discussion Board and/or Collaborate as the leaning platform. Theme area: Social justice.

GPSC 515: Ethics in Research (1 credit; School of Pharmacy) (combined with PHBAS 412)
This course - through lectures, readings, discussions, cases, and class presentations - will provide students with the necessary knowledge and critical thinking skills to evaluate and resolve the ethical issues that arise in the course of their professional and scientific careers. This course will be combined (in order to make 3 credits) with:
PHBAS 412: Advanced Law and Ethics Applications (2 credits; School of Pharmacy)
An advanced-level course which will introduce the concepts of professional liability and ethical decision-making in pharmacy practice. The course will utilize the case method approach with a focus on analytical thought processes in the application of principles to factual situations.

Independent Study
Students can select a particular area of healthcare ethics in connection to their personal and/or professional interest, for example assisted reproduction, assisted suicide, bioengineering, biodiversity, biopolitics, chronic disease, designer babies, disaster ethics, doping, end-of-life care ethics, euthanasia, food ethics, genetic modification, international research, justice, migration, nanotechnology, neuro-ethics, obesity, pandemics, pharmacy ethics, right to health, sports, synthetic biology, transhumanism, and transplantation ethics. The study will involve assignments for readings and writings, producing a substantial course essay.