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The Minor in Bioethics and Humanities is designed for students aspiring toward careers in the health sciences and the health professions.  Courses address ethical issues in the practice of health care and the conduct of health sciences research and provide students with an appreciation of the history, philosophy, and culture of medicine and the health sciences. Located in the School of Medicine, the Department of Bioethics and Humanities is devoted to teaching and research in bioethics and the humanities. The Department offers the only minor program available for undergraduates in the School of Medicine.

DECLARING THE B H MINOR***: The Registrar requires thats tudents declare a major and have completed a minimum of 45 credits before declaring a minor.  To add a minor, the current rules require that the student’s major advisor sign the minor declaration paperwork in order to ensure that students meet university satisfactory progress requirements. Fill out a change-of-major/minor form available at your major department advising office, Schmitz Hall, Rm. 225, or the Undergraduate Advising Center, 171 Mary Gates Hall. If you are considering a Minor in Bioethics and Humanities, we encourage you to make an appointment with us to discuss how the B H Minor might fit with your goals and course schedule. Contact to schedule a meeting with our advisor or if you have any questions.

***Dr. Berryman will be reitring the end of autumn quarter. This means we will lose our medical history courses,, so we are in the process of changing the minor requirements. Please email or call 206.221.6548 to set an advising appointment to discuss options. Our goal is to make the transition smooth and your path to the minor a success..

COMPLETING THIS MINOR will require at least two years, as many courses are offered only once a year or in alternate years. It is preferable to allow three years, beginning with 100-300 level elective courses in the sophomore year.  Junior standing is required to enroll in most of our courses even if you are a declared minor. PLAN AHEAD!  No substitutions will be allowed for either core or elective courses.

It is advised that all declared and prospective BH minors sign up for our BH listserv to receive periodic reminders and updates on classes, events, scholarships, etc... You may sign yourself up at:

Requirements: 25 credits of Bioethics & Humanities and related courses (15 of which must be B H ) with a minimum of 2.0 GPA required in each course presented for the minor. This information is all available on the minor worksheet which will be very helpful to keep track of your progress.

Courses must be distributed as follows:

    1. Choose one of the following: BH 411 B H 311, BH 420, BH 456, BH 474/PHIL 411, or PHIL 242

    2. Choose one of the following: BH 401, BH 481, or BH 485

    3. Additional credits selected from the following electives to total 25 credits; [please see worksheet]

Total of 25 credits includes core courses. Any of the courses listed above in 1) and 2) may be used as electives if they are not counted toward the core requirements. 

*Signifies a core course. If a B H course is cross-listed with another department’s course, B H credits toward the required 15 credits will be accepted. 

The Department of Bioethics & Humanities is in the School of Medicine. Courses and related information are listed under School of Medicine in the Time Schedule and the UW General Catalog.

B H undergraduate courses will require entry (add) codes during registration period one. Entry codes will only be distributed to declared B H minors only. Larger courses will open to all after registration period one ends on a first-come, first-served basis with no entry code required. Our smaller courses will still require entry codes, and we will begin wait lists after registration period one ends.

If you have questions about the minor, please contact the Education Programs Sepcialist, at 206.221.6548 or

Choose one of the following five core courses:

B H 311Ethical Issues in Modern Medicine (3) formerly B H 411 Introduction to Bioethics (3) Introduction to field of bioethics. Basic concepts, principles and methods of analysis, with application to some major issues in the field. Case studies utilized to illustrate nature of questions arising in bioethics and to provide students with opportunity to develop skills in ethical analysis.


B H 420 Philosophical Problems in Bioethics (3) Introduces students to philosophical concepts and controversies that underlie contemporary bioethical debates.  Issues are explored using the literature of bioethics and philosophy, contemporary film, works of fiction, and conversations with health professionals. 


B H 456 Social Justice and Health (5) Examines the moral grounds for the view that social inequalities in health are unjust using contemporary literature from moral philosophy and bioethics, case studies, and film. Explores basic questions integral to determinations of social injustice as well as moral constraints on the pursuit of health equity.


B H 474/PHIL 411 Justice in Health Care (5) Examination of the ethical problem of allocating scarce medical resources. Emphasis on fundamental principles of justice that support alternative health policies. Recommended: prior courses in philosophy or medical ethics.


PHIL 242 Introduction to Medical Ethics (5) Introduction to ethics, primarily for first- and second-year students. Emphasizes philosophical thinking and writing through an in-depth study of philosophical issues arising in the practice of medicine. Examines the issues of medical ethics from a patient's point of view.

AND one of the following three courses:

B H 401 The History of Modern Medicine (3) Survey of evolution of medical theory, practice and institutions in European and American society, from the late 18th century to present.


B H 481 The Pursuit of Health in American Society (3)
Examination of the development of concern for personal health over the past two centuries, and of the evolution of philosophies and practices of health promotion. Emphasis on the influence of both medicine and popular culture on shaping of attitudes toward diet, exercise, dress, sex, and other health behavior.


B H 485 Concepts of the Body in 19th and 20th Century America (3) Investigation of ideas relating to corporeal self in nineteenth- and twentieth-century America. Evolution of physical ideals of manliness/femininity, how ideals related to surrounding culture, how different bodily activities developed to realize ideals. Athleticism, physiognomy, beauty contests, body building, decorations, cosmetics, anthropometry, and phrenology.

Electives: Additional credits from approved electives to total 25 credits for the program, including core courses (15 credits must be in B H courses). New electives are added annually so click here for a current list of the core and elective courses.

B H 402 Ethical Theory (5) I&S Jecker
Studies the major normative ethical theories, including both teleological and deontological approaches. Emphasizes moral philosophy during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, as well as contemporary commentary. Recommended: one basic course in ethics. Offered: jointly with PHIL 412.

B H 404 Metaethical Theory (5) I&S Jecker
Studies the major metaethical theories, including both cognitivist and noncognitivist approaches. Emphasizes moral philosophy during the twentieth century, as well as contemporary commentary. Recommended: one introductory philosophy course. Offered: jointly with PHIL 413.

B H 421 History of Eugenics (5) I&S Woiak
Examines the history of ideas, policies, and practices associated with eugenics and human genetics from the late nineteenth century to the present in American society and other national contexts. Offered: jointly with DIS ST 421.

B H 440 Philosophy of Medicine (5) I&S Jecker
Familiarizes students with central issues in the philosophy of medicine. Focuses on the nature of medical knowledge, the connection between theory and observation, the meaning of medical concepts, and the relationship between theories and the world. Recommended: prior courses in philosophy, history of science, or history of medicine. Offered: jointly with PHIL 459.

B H 460 Responsible Conduct of Research (3) I&S
Explores ethical and policy issues that emergy in the conduct of basic, applied, translational, community-based, and collaborative research. Addresses the ethical debates that arise in the context of planning, implementing, and disseminating research.

B H 497 Bioethics and Humanites Special Electives (*-, max. 30)
This is our special topics course. Watch time schedule for offerings and descriptions.
Instructor: varies; Course Description: varies

B H 499 Undergraduate Research (*, max. 5)
Investigative work in biomedical ethics or history of the biomedical sciences.

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Independent Study:

B H undergraduate research is open to juniors and seniors. You may request to complete an independent study project however we strongly encourage you to complete the minor using the course offerings. Faculty are limited on the number of IS credits they can supervise. A student should have in mind a particular project, or topic of interest, and some idea of how they propose to go about studying it independently. B H 499 enables students to investigate areas of intellectual interest that are substantially distinct from existing courses and/or to pursue modes of inquiry that are more intensive, specialized or innovative than those that are encountered in conventional course work.

This option involves a contract between the student and faculty sponsor to complete a specialized program of reading, research, or a distinct project with a plan for meetings, papers and other projects agreed upon at the outset. Students and faculty need to complete the BH499 Independent Study form and submit a copy to the Education Programs Specialist.

Students wishing to enroll in B H 499 should complete the following steps:
1. Discuss the project with a faculty member of your choice, or choose one in cooperation with the B H Education Programs Specialist. If the faculty member is willing to serve as a sponsor, agree on the number of conferences required, whether the project will involve one large paper, several essays, annotated bibliography, etc.

2. Fill out the application, describing the format of your study and the specific work to be done and have your sponsor sign it. If you don’t yet have a sponsor, the B H Program Coordinator will route your application to appropriate faculty who may be able to supervise your study.

3. Enter into your IS contract with your faculty sponsor, who will then notify the B H Education Programs Specialist to register you for B H 499 credits.

How much time do you have for an independent research study?
For a typical research paper, it might be expected that the student will write 5 typed, double-spaced pages per credit. This is only an example—final requirements must be agreed upon with the faculty mentor.

To conform to other course standards, the student is expected to participate in 3 hours of research activities per credit per week. This means that a 3 credit hour independent research study will involve 9 hours of research each week in addition to scheduled meetings with a faculty sponsor.

Department Grading Scale

BH Grading Scale

Bioethics Briefing Book

The Hastings Center Bioethics Briefing Book for Journalists, Policymakers, and Campaigns contains 36 overviews of issues in bioethics of high public interest, such as abortion, health care reform, human and sports enhancement, organ transplantation, personalized medicine, medical error, and stem cells. The chapters, written by leading ethicists, are nonpartisan, presenting reasonable considerations from various perspectives that are grounded in good scientific and ethical facts. They each include recent news stories, clickable experts to contact, linked resources, and (where available) recent legislation and campaign positions. Greater detail on how to use the book is in the introduction. The three framing essays offer valuable insights into the historical and increasing relevance of bioethics to public policy. 

Undergraduate Bioethics Journals: Cornell University, Princton University, and University of Pennsylvania publish undergraduate bioethics journals. Research and discussion based articles are published primarily from undergraduate students at schools throughout the US, Canada, and Europe.

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© 2014, Department of Bioethics & Humanities, University of Washington. Email comments or questions to Webmaster. This page last updated February 4, 2016 .