Saint Louis University

PhD Program: Course Descriptions

Relevant credit hours are listed in parentheses.

  1. Health Care Ethics: Foundations
  2. Health Care: Context
  3. Health Care Ethics: Topics and Scholars
  4. Other Courses
  5. Additional Coursework for Students Entering Directly from Baccalaureate Studies


1. Foundations of Health Care Ethics
(12 credit hours) [Back to Top]

HCE-6010 Philosophical Methods in Health Care Ethics (3)

A study of philosophical methods of inquiry in health care ethics such as principlism, casuistry, professional virtue ethics, pragmatic bioethics, and libertarian bioethics.

HCE-6020 Religious Methods in Health Care Ethics (3)

A study of the hermeneutical significance of different methods in religious ethics and a critical analysis of the implication of these methods for the development of ethical theory and practice.

HCE-6040 Interdisciplinary Research in Health Care Ethics (3)

A study of the assumptions and methods that guide interdisciplinary research in health care ethics. Special attention is given to the integration of factual knowledge from fields related to health care into normative, ethical arguments.

Additionally, students are required to complete 1 of the following 3 foundations courses:

HCE-6050 Philosophical Foundations in Ethics (3)

This course will survey the history of thinking in ethics with the goal of understanding the ethical system in its philosophical and historical context. Students will read the primary texts from thinkers like Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Kant, Nietzsche, and MacIntyre. Where appropriate examples from contemporary health care ethics will be used to clarify points. Students will be encouraged to write papers that engage contemporary problems in health care ethics with one or more of the philosophical thinkers in mind.

HCE-6070 Foundations of Catholic Morality (3)

This course explores basic themes of the Catholic moral tradition such as the human person as a moral agent, human freedom, the role and rights of conscience, the importance of virtue in the moral life, natural law, the use of Scripture in moral theology and the importance of human experience in the moral life. Particular attention will be given to the development of the moral tradition. Note: Students may register to take this course with Aquinas Institute of Theology (MOR D500-01).

2. Context of Health Care
(12 credit hours) [Back to Top]

HCE-6110 Introduction to Medicine for Ethicists (1)

This course is designed for non-physicians planning a career in health care ethics. It investigates basic clinical pathophysiology, diagnostics, therapeutics, and clinical culture. The emphasis is on biomedical information that might be relevant or useful in the practice of clinical bioethics.

HCE-6130 Clinical Ethics

This course examines the role of ethicists and the process of ethics consultation in clinical medicine and patient care. It begins by examining clinical meta-ethics issues, including justifications for ethics expertise and current controversies in the field. The course then covers different methods of ethics consultation, examining strengths and weaknesses of each. Students are introduced to the fundamental skills and knowledge needed for analyzing and resolving ethical dilemmas, including cultural competency and mediation skills. Finally, the course will address specific topics in clinical ethics, including futility, decision-making capacity and competence, informed consent and pediatric issues.

HCE-6140 Research Ethics (3)

This course introduces students to a range of topics in research ethics. The focus of the course is academic human subjects research ethics, though issues of regulation and compliance will be discussed throughout. For each topic selected, there will be four main study elements: (1) identify the ethical issues that emerge; (2) identify the major ethical arguments concerning these issues; (3) assess the major arguments; (4) examine the relevance of these issues and arguments to particular instances of human subjects research.

HCE-6150 Practicum (1-3)

This practicum engages students in medical care settings with these goals: to experience a wide range of acute clinical care; to observe the patient/family/caregiver dynamics involved in clinical care; to reflect critically on the ethical challenges and principles involved in these patient care settings.

HCE-6120: Bioethics and the Law (2) [cross-listed with LW-L758]

This course examines legal issues in health care decision making in areas typically considered a part of bioethics. These topics include organ transplantation, genetic medicine, end-of-life care, determination of death, and experimentation with human subjects, among other topics. While the emphasis of the course focuses on cases, statutes and regulations applicable to these issues, the course also studies the leading approaches in ethics as they are applied in these situations. Finally, the course includes consideration of the primary processes used for dispute resolution in bioethics, including litigation, institutional ethics committees, and institutional review boards. A final examination is required. While students may also be required to complete one very short written exercise to familiarize themselves with practice in the field, no substantial written paper is required.

3. Health Care Ethics: Topics and Scholars (12 credit hours) [Back to Top]

Students will complete 12 credit hours of Topics and Scholars courses. Preferably some electives will be in areas related to a student's anticipated dissertation research.

HCE-6120 Bioethics and the Law (3)

A study of the impact of law upon delivery systems, providers, and patients in health care, including: legal analysis in case law and statutes; legal process in health care; fundamental legal principles in health care law; critical judicial decisions and regulatory issues that impact American health care settings.

HCE-6310 Health Care Ethics in the Catholic Tradition (3)

This course examines moral methodology and critical issues in Catholic bioethics, primarily through the lens of four contemporary moral theologians who present differing, sometimes opposing, viewpoints on the subject matter.

HCE-6350 Philosopher(s) in Health Care Ethics (3)

A study of one or several philosophers in bioethics, including: the genesis of the scholar's thought and works (e.g., response to previous philosophical theories); a systematic critique of the method adopted (e.g., implications for social policy); an evaluation of the scholar's contribution (e.g., predominance of the method).

HCE-6360 Religious Scholar(s) in Health Care Ethics (3)

A study of one or several religious scholars in health care ethics, including: the genesis of the scholar's thought and works (e.g., response to previous religious theories); a systematic critique of the method adopted (e.g., implications for social/ecclesial policy); an evaluation of the scholar's contribution (e.g., influence upon religious traditions).

HCE-6380 Clinical Issues in Health Care Ethics (3)

A study of specific clinical bioethical issues that arise in the care of adult and pediatric patients such as decision making capacity, surrogate decision making, the privacy of health records, futile and burdensome treatments, palliative care, rationing, and other clinical topics.

HCE-6930 Special Topics (1-3)

4. Other Courses [Back to Top]

HCE-6150 Practicum (1-3)

This Practicum engages students in a variety of health care settings to experience the clinical environment, the public and community dimensions of health care, and the administrative aspects of health care. These experiences help students better understand the health care context. Students will reflect critically on ethical challenges in health care.

HCE-6510 Interdisciplinary Research Seminar: Dissertation Research in Health Care Ethics (0)

The interdisciplinary research seminar is recommended for students between the end of coursework and completing the dissertation. This seminar examines ongoing dissertation research, integrating the knowledge of method and systematic analysis in ethics, of intermediary study, and of foreign literature in health care ethics.

HCE-6520 Directed Research in Descriptive Ethics (3)

Prerequisites: Completion of at least nine semester hours within the Certificate in Empirical Research Methods program. This course provides the opportunity to design and carry out directed research in descriptive ethics. The course fosters the development of skills necessary to secure grant funding, to gain Institutional Review Board approval, and to do empirical research that can be integrated into the doctoral dissertation in health care ethics.

HCE-6530 Directed Research in Health Law and Ethics (3) [cross listed with LW-885]

HCE-6950 Special Study for Examinations (0)

HCE-697 Research Topics (1-3)

Prior permission of Program Director required.

HCE-6980 Graduate Reading Course (1-3)

Prior permission of Program Director required.

HCE-6990 Dissertation Research (0-6)

HCE-6CR99 Doctor of Philosophy Degree Study (0)

5. Additional Coursework Requirement for Students Entering Directly from Baccalaureate Studies
[Back to Top]

Students entering the PhD Program directly from baccalaureate studies additionally complete 12 hours of coursework.

HCE-6050: Philosophical Foundations of Ethics -or an equivalent 3 credit-hour graduate-level foundations of ethics course.

HCE-6060: Psychosocial Foundations in Ethics -or a suitable 3 credit-hour graduate-level applied ethics course available in another department.

HCE-6070: Catholic Foundations in Ethics -or a suitable 3 credit-hour graduate-level applied ethics course available in another department.

PUBH-5020: Ethical Issues in Public Health -or a suitable 3 credit-hour graduate-level applied ethics course available in another department

And 1 upper-level ethics elective either within HCE or another department.

Note: This lists 5 courses; however, one of the first 3 courses listed is required as a selective for all PhD students and does not count toward the additional 12 hrs. required.

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