Skip to main content

Saint Louis University Gnaegi Center for Health Care Ethics Header Logo Center

Menu Search & Directory

Course Descriptions

Saint Louis University's Center for Healthcare Ethics offers a variety of courses including foundational, elective and study-abroad courses. 

 

Foundations Courses

HCE 2010: Foundations in Clinical Health Care Ethics
This course introduces students to the ethical dimensions of clinical medicine and offers them the basic language and methodology with which to critically examine these dimensions. The course format integrates lecture and active case discussion to provide both the necessary theoretical grounding and the real-world skills sought by students.

HCE 2050 - Patients as Persons
This course will introduce students to the philosophical and theological foundations of various debates and positions in bioethics, all of which concern how patients in the clinical care or research context ought to be regarded and treated as persons. Students will explore the way that philosophical and theological concepts of personhood have shaped debates concerning major issues in bioethics, including abortion, genetic testing and treatment, euthanasia and end-of-life care, brain death, organ transplantation, disability, biomedical research, as well as the practice of medicine and the healthcare provider-patient relationship.

HCE 2070 - Health Care Across Difference
Delivering health care to a diverse patient population is complex. This course examines the clinical and ethical dilemmas posed by diversity in health care. Through a series of case studies we will explore how the delivery of care can be impacted by race, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, culture, and religion. We will conclude with an examination of the intersection of various forms of diversity in Anne Fadiman’s book The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down. Students will gain experience working collaboratively on bioethical research, and exploring how their own identity shapes their engagement with health care.

HCE 2090 - Bioethics in an Interdisciplinary Perspective
This course will consider bioethics from an interdisciplinary perspective: one that draws on research across the university to answer questions of applied ethics in health care. We will begin by discussing why bioethics is interdisciplinary, and consider examples of research that integrates scholarship in the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences. Then we will conduct an extended case study of how different academic disciplines approach the same topic: the “right to die.” Students will write several short papers designed to develop their skills at synthesizing research from diverse academic disciplines, as well as one individual interdisciplinary research paper.

HCE 3020/THEO 3930: Foundations in Catholic Health Care Ethics (Counts as either a required foundations course or elective course)
This course examines ethical issues in health care through the lens of Catholic moral thought. Students will first be introduced to the terminology and approaches of secular bioethics in order to understand similarities and differences between a secular and Catholic approach. Students will then explore theological foundations for health care ethics, including Christian anthropology and the meaning of the Christian life as it relates to issues that arise in health care. The course will engage specific teachings of the Catholic Moral tradition that bear directly on issues of health care ethics, including reproductive technologies, contraception, end-of-life decision making and physician-assisted suicide. While studying these issues, students will become familiar with differing, sometimes opposing, viewpoints and approaches of Catholic thinkers. A course format integrating lecture and active case discussion will provide both an understanding of principles and the opportunity to develop practical dilemma-solving skills.

Elective Courses

HCE 3010: Ethical Issues in Clinical Medicine
This course examines ethical issues encountered medicine, specifically by physicians and residents. It employs a case-based approach with supplementary readings on the general principles of biomedical ethics. Clinical problems related to the practice of medicine will be examined contextually, with attention to institutional, cultural, and moral issues that undergird controversies in clinical ethics.

HCE 3030: Disability Studies: Medicine, Ethics and Policy
This course will introduce undergraduates to disability studies. We will begin by detailing studies as an outgrowth of disability rights. We will then discuss contemporary topics in the field. We will conclude by analyzing disability in bioethics. Students will learn to apply disability studies in medicine, ethics, and policy. 

HCE 3050: Bioethics in Popular Culture
This course covers bioethical topics as depicted in various pop culture media, including abortion, genetic testing, cloning, stem cell research, euthanasia, and end-of-life care, biomedical research, public health, and the healthcare provider-patient relationship. Pop culture media utilized include documentaries, sci-fi television shows, medical dramas, literature, and music.

HCE 3100: Public Health and Social Justice
Health has special moral importance for the well being of individuals and populations. We will discuss ethical issues associated with economic measures, resource allocation, priority setting, and human rights. The course is designed to evoke thoughts on personal and institutional responses to the questions of social justice and health.

HCE 3200: Freaks and the Medical Body
This course has two parts. The first part examines the spectacles of the “freak shows” of the late 19th and early 20th Centuries and how medical science participated in and legitimated the use of deformed and malformed people as both oddity of nature and object of medical and scientific interest. “Freaks” were showcased and used to expand medical knowledge. We will explore the way in which medical libraries gathered “specimens” of deformed persons for the purposes of expanding medical scientific knowledge. The second part of the course will begin with recent and contemporary “freak shows” as seen in programs like TLC’s Little People, Big World, NBC’s The Biggest Loser, and ABC News’ medical mystery series. These programs highlight various medical oddities and showcase their transformation. Yet, there is also something slightly different at work, because medicine not only showcases the oddities, but participates in their construction and creation as seen in programs like ABC’s Extreme Makeover, Fox’s The Swan, and E!'s Bridalplasty, in the cases of Octomom and the Ashley Treatment, and in art exhibitions like Orlan and Alba the bunny. This course will explore the themes of power and knowledge and the way in which certain forbidden spectacles gain respectability through the legitimating power of medicine and science, but also how medicine and science deploy that power/knowledge to create those very spectacles, along with our aesthetic and ethical sensibilities.

HCE 3220 - The Desire to Dissect: Philosophical History of Anatomical Dissection
This course explores the historical and philosophical underpinnings of anatomical dissection in Western medicine. It begins with a comparative history of ancient Greek and Chinese medicine, proceeds to examine the medical and cultural development of anatomical dissection, and concludes with anatomical thinking as the root of modern medical knowing.

HCE 3250 - God in the Clinic? Exploring the Tension Between Spirituality and Health Care
Is spirituality integral to health care or should spirituality be excluded from modern medicine? This course explores the historical, ethical, and practical dimensions of spirituality in health care. It begins with the history of the relationship between religion and medicine, critically examines differing frameworks of spirituality in health care, and ends with students learning how to address issues such as: approaching the suffering patient, navigating miracle language, and doing whole person care at the end of life. Required is a site visit to a religious ceremony.

HCE 4210: Controversies in Death and Dying
This course examines current controversies in end-of-life care, utilizing a discussion and case-based teaching methodology. Various topics will be examined and discussed, from both pro and con perspectives. Topics will include: the definition of death, physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia, advance directives and end-of-life decision-making, killing versus letting die and organ donation.

HCE 4220: Controversies in Reproductive and Pediatric Ethics
This course examines controversial ethical issues surrounding the use of reproductive technology and medicine. Both pro and con perspectives are critically discussed. Topics include: the moral status of the human embryo, maternal-fetal conflicts, contraception, sterilization, in vitro fertilization, surrogate motherhood, prenatal screening, cloning, and the derivation of embryonic stem cells for research purposes.  

HCE 4240: Ethics and Geriatric Care (Service-learning internship)
This course is designed to introduce undergraduate students to the ethics and practice of geriatric medicine and the spiritual dimensions of end-of-life care. In addition to weekly seminar discussions, students will spend three hours each week volunteering, shadowing and engaging with residents at Beauvais Manor on the Park. In large part, seminar discussion will proceed from the students’ experiences at Beauvais, likely reflecting on issues such as the human experience of death and dying, meaning and transcendence, suffering and hope, and relationships at the end of life. In addition, discussion will integrate issues encountered in various fictional narratives of death and dying, assigned throughout the course. Note: This course requires a drug screen, TB test, background check and flu shot. Because some of these requirements take time to complete, you should contact Adrienne McCarthy as soon as you think you might be interested in registering for the course.

HCE 4250: Law and Bioethics
This course will examine the ethical and jurisprudential issues related to areas of health care typically included in the field of bioethics. The course will introduce students to the leading ethico-legal approaches in analyzing cases and examining the judicial history and politics that gave rise to these.

HCE 4260: From Tuskegee to Henrietta Lacks: Race and Research Ethics
This course will explore the troubling history of the relationship between the American medical research establishment and African Americans, from slavery times up until the present. Tracing these historical abuses to the current research ethics climate between African Americans and research, as well as the safeguards and approaches currently implemented to improve this climate. Students will have the opportunity to actively engage the current state of affairs by thinking out of the box and creating potential solutions, and envisioning different future trajectories of this fraught relationship.

HCE 4270: Controversies in Organ Procurement and Transplantation
This course will examine controversies surrounding organ donation and transplantation. Topics will include: the significance (or insignificance) of ensuring donors of vital organs are dead; appropriate criteria for determining death; the significance (or insignificance) of explicit authorization of donors for donation after death; the appropriateness (or inappropriateness) of incentives for living donation and for donation after death; the ethical character of organ marketing; appropriate treatment of potential donors who are minors or who lack decision-making capacity; and appropriate allocation of organs. 

HCE 4280 - Controversies in Neuroethics
Neuroethics was born of necessity to grapple with the ethical dimensions of advances in neuroscience. This course takes an interdisciplinary approach to diverse topics within Neuroethics, providing students with a forum for discussion. The field can be divided into the ethics of neuroscience and the neuroscience of ethics. Ethics of neuroscience examines moral concerns around developments in neuroscience. Neuroscience of ethics examines how advances in neuroscience bear on traditional questions in philosophy. The course will explore both domains and work toward student ability to discuss these controversial questions with respect for different opinions.

HCE 4500/5500: Ethics in Nursing and Health Care
This course offers an overview of ethical theory, principles and norms which should inform professional nursing practice. The meaning of nursing as a profession is also studied as a source of ethical obligation for the nurse. Students will analyze and evaluate cases that arise in the practice of nursing in light of identified ethical theory, principles and norms. This course is restricted to nursing students who have completed their junior year of nursing studies.

HCE 4960 - Bioethics and Health Studies Capstone
This course will guide students in the creation of a capstone paper, the topic of which will be determined via consultation between the student and the instructor. The course itself will begin with two weeks of introductory readings on interdisciplinary methodologies in bioethics. Students will then begin writing their papers. They will do so in stages, sharing their work in weekly “writing workshops” with the instructor and each other. In addition to the paper, students will complete a series of assignments—a public defense, mock job talk, and “transition paper”—designed to assist them in transitioning from undergraduates to professionals.

Study-Abroad Courses

HCE 3300: Cross-Cultural Perspectives in Bioethics Through Film
Study abroad opportunity in Madrid, Spain. The Center for Health Care Ethics is pleased to offer a three-week summer intensive course in Madrid, Spain. Open to students in all majors, this three-credit hour course uses popular films to explore how medicine and biotechnology challenge definitions and conceptualizations of being human. The course will consider the ethical dilemmas posed by such diverse practices as abortion, euthanasia, cognitive enhancement/manipulation, and genetic enhancement. The course and all films are presented in English. Knowledge of the Spanish language is not required. The course offers unique opportunities for dialogue with health care students and professionals in Spain and includes a field experience in a local hospice/home for the aged. The program includes a group day trip to the historical sites of Avila and Segovia. Students will also have the option to participate in a weekend excursion to Cordoba (the cost is additional to the program cost). All participants may register for additional courses at the SLU Madrid campus.

HCE 3020/THEO 3930: Foundations in Catholic Health Care Ethics (Counts as either a required foundations course or elective course)
Study abroad opportunity in Ireland. This course examines ethical issues in health care through the lens of Catholic moral thought. Students will first be introduced to the terminology and approaches of secular bioethics in order to understand similarities and differences between a secular and Catholic approach. Students will then explore theological foundations for health care ethics, including Christian anthropology and the meaning of the Christian life as it relates to issues that arise in health care. The course will engage specific teachings of the Catholic Moral tradition that bear directly on issues of health care ethics, including reproductive technologies, contraception, end-of-life decision making and physician-assisted suicide. While studying these issues, students will become familiar with differing, sometimes opposing, viewpoints and approaches of Catholic thinkers. A course format integrating lecture and active case discussion will provide both an understanding of principles and the opportunity to develop practical dilemma-solving skills.

Ph.D. Course Descriptions

Foundations of Health Care Ethics

HCE 6010: Philosophical Methods in Health Care Ethics
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
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
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.

HCE 6050: Philosophical Foundations in Ethics
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
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).

Context of Health Care

HCE 6110: Introduction to Medicine for Ethicists
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 6120: Bioethics and the Law
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 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
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
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.

Health Care Ethics: Topics and Scholars 

HCE 6310: Health Care Ethics in the Catholic Tradition
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 
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 
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
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.

Other Courses

HCE 6150: Practicum
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
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
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.