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Duquesne Professor Creating Bioethics Curriculum for Developing Nations

An international bioethics curriculum aimed at introducing ethics principles to health care students in developing countries is being designed in part by Duquesne University’s Dr. Henk ten Have, director of the Center for Healthcare Ethics.

“The curriculum can be used in areas where there is not a lot of ethics being taught, specifically in Arab and African countries,” ten Have explained. “The students in those countries are interested in ethics because they see that some of the problems there come from the behavior of health care professionals.”

The curriculum is a project of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) Advisory Expert Committee for the Teaching of Ethics, which ten Have chairs. The first version of the UNESCO Bioethics Core Curriculum was released in 2008 and to date, 10 universities in Asia, Latin America and Eastern Europe have piloted the program. With results from these test sites, the UNESCO group reconvened last month to improve upon the curriculum so that it can be more widely translated and distributed.

Because academic textbooks can be unaffordable for schools and students in the developing countries that need the ethics curriculum most, the program is available online as two PDFs. One document is a syllabus and teaching manual for use by instructors, and the other is a hyperlinked document that students can use electronically to read course literature and view related videos online.

Beyond financial hurdles, universities that want to offer the ethics curriculum also need assistance finding qualified instructors.

“These universities don’t have ethics experts on site,” ten Have said. “I am in the process now of finding a rotating team of teachers willing to go to these countries and demonstrate how the course can be taught as a way to train future teachers.”

Instruction is expected to begin in the second half of 2012.

Duquesne University

Founded in 1878, Duquesne is consistently ranked among the nation's top Catholic universities for its award-winning faculty and tradition of academic excellence. Duquesne, a campus of nearly 9,500 graduate and undergraduate students, has been nationally recognized for its academic programs, community service and commitment to sustainability. Follow Duquesne University on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.