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The Minor in Bioethics is designed for students aspiring toward careers in the health sciences and the health professions. The program is the only undergraduate minor available for students in the School of Medicine, and is one of the oldest programs of its kind in the United States. The curriculum for the Minor in Bioethics addresses ethical issues in health care, health policy, public health and the conduct of health sciences research; introduces ethical theories and methods of ethics analysis; and instills an appreciation of social and cultural issues that frame bioethical concerns. Course formats vary from small seminars that afford opportunities for peer learning to larger lecture-driven courses. The curriculum is taught by faculty from diverse disciplinary backgrounds who are experts in their respective fields.

DECLARING THE B H MINOR IN BIOETHICS: The Registrar requires that students 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. The online form can be found here https://depts.washington.edu/registra/forms/UoW1827.pdf [note: major changes or declarations are posted only once per quarter, but the minor can be declared and posted any time during the quarter} 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 bhadvise@uw.edu to schedule a meeting with our advisor or if you have any questions.

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 B H & elective courses in the sophomore year. Junior standing is required to enroll in most of our courses even if you are a declared minor. It is imperative to PLAN AHEAD. No substitutions will be allowed for B H credits.

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: https://mailman1.u.washington.edu/mailman/listinfo/bh_minor

Requirements: 25 credits of bioethics related courses (18 of which must be B H prefix course credits) with a minimum of 2.0 GPA required in all courses presented for the minor. This information is all available on the minor worksheet which will be very helpful to keep track of your progress.

Minor Requirements: 25 credits, as follows:

  1. Minimum 18 credits of bioethics and humanities (B H) courses
  2. Electives from an approved list to reach 25 credits. If a B H course is cross-listed with another department's course, the course may be counted toward the B H-course minimum even if taken under the other department's prefix. See program minor worksheet or for more information on electives.

Minimum 2.0 grade in courses presented for the minor,

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.

Most BH undergraduate courses will require entry (add) codes during registration period one. Entry codes will be distributed to declared BH 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 all registration periods, and we will begin wait lists after registration period one ends.

If you have questions about the minor, please contact the Education Programs Specialist, at 206.221.6548 or bhadvise@u.washington.edu.


Required B H credit course options:

B H 201 Topics in Bioethics & Humanities (2) I&S Introduces topics in clinical, research, and population health ethics and methods of ethical analysis and argumentation. Addresses topics such as the birth of bioethics, informed consent, end-of-life care, genomic medicine, social justice in healthcare and in population health, and global bioethics. Credit/no-credit only. Open to freshmen and sophomores.

B H 311Ethical Issues in Modern Medicine (3)I&S 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. Open to freshmen and sophomores.

B H 339 Bioethics: Secular and Jewish Perspectives (5) I&S Explores legal, ethical, scientific, and Biblical-Rabbinic & contemporary religious perspectives on contemporary medical and biomedical research practices. Review of key differences between secular and Jewish approaches in interpretation, analysis and application of bioethics. The topics include: doctor-patient relationships; reproductive methods; abortion; euthanasia; and stem cell research. Offered: jointly with JEW ST 339.

B H 402 Ethical Theory (5) I&S 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 409 Ethics and the Social Determinants of Health (3) I&S, DIV E. Blacksher
Examines ethical issues confronting healthcare workers caring for poor & minority populations, whose capacity for health and recovery from disease are compromised by social conditions in which they grow up, live, work, and age. Aims to broaden/reorient understandings of disease, patient autonomy, and clinician duties within contexts of structural inequalities related to socioeconomic status/race/ethnicity/gender/other salient social differences.

B H 420 Philosophical Problems in Bioethics (3) I&S 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 421 History of Eugenics (5)  I&S 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 444 (currently B H 497) Ethical Implications of Emerging Technology (3) Introduces students to select biomedical innovations and invites sustained consideration of the many ethical implications surrounding their development and potential use.

B H 456 Social Justice and Health (5) I&S 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 460 Reflections on Research Responsibility & Society (3)  I&S
Explores ethical and policy issues that emerge 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 474 Justice in Health Care (5) VLPA/I&S 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. Offered: jointly with PHIL 411.

B H 488 Global Perspectives in Bioethics (3) I&S, DIV
Examines problems in bioethics from diverse global standpoints, including East Asian, Sub-Saharran African and Western. Emphasis on developing a deeper understanding of the cultural assumptions that lie just beneath the surface of bioethics debates. Offered jointly with G H 419. Submitted - anticipanted SPR 2019.

B H 497 Bioethics and Humanities 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. 3)
Investigative work in biomedical ethics or history of the biomedical sciences.

Electives: Additional credits from approved electives to total 25 credits for the program, (18 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.

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Independent Study (B H 499):
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.

Currently,faculty don’t have the bandwidth to offer independent study credits

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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, Princeton 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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