Division of Medical Ethics

The Division of Medical Ethics aims to improve patient care, medical science, and health care policy through outstanding bioethics scholarship and the training of the next generation of bioethics scholars.  With strengths in research ethics, neuro- and mental health ethics, global bioethics and the ethics of health care policy, it is among the leading centers of bioethics scholarship in the world.


  • The Scattergood Program for Applied Ethics of Behavioral Health Care

    The Scattergood Program for Applied Ethics of Behavioral Health Care is housed in the Department of Medical Ethics & Health Policy at the University of Pennsylvania. The ScattergoodEthics Program aims to elevate the national conversation about the ethics of research, treatment, and delivery of behavioral health care.

    Program Website
  • Penn Project on Precision Medicine for the Brain (P3MB)

    Concepts of brain diseases are undergoing a radical transformation. Genes and biomarkers are changing how we diagnose and treat patients. We will be able to routinely identify persons who, while at present are either asymptomatic or only mildly symptomatic, over time may develop disabling cognitive and physical impairments. If precision medicine for the brain succeeds, someday a person will not have to be demented or disabled to be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, schizophrenia, major depression, and so on. Instead, the transformation from a healthy person to a patient will occur because a blood, imaging, or other test led to a prescription for a therapy designed to reduce the long term likelihood of decline. While this new world of prevention holds great promise, both its development and translation into clinical practice present interrelated clinical, ethical and policy challenges.


    P3MB’s efforts focus on understanding the inter-related clinical, ethical and policy implications of applying precision medicine to the brain. Current work includes understanding to whom and how to safely disclose information about one’s future risk Alzheimer’s disease dementia. We are also studying the personal and social effects of disclosing these types of risk information, such as the impact of this type of information about one’s self on identity. 

  • Penn Program in Clinical Conflict Management

    The Penn Program in Clinical Conflict Management offers training in clinical ethics mediation skills and techniques for physicians, nurses, administrators, ethics committee members, social workers, legal counsel, pastoral care provides and other health care professionals. This program enhances the skill set of any health care professional who deals with conflict in a clinical setting. Our workshops cover an introduction to the mediation process, dynamics of the patient/provider relationship, categories of clinical ethics disputes, the neutrality dilemma, and mock mediations. Students will be placed in a variety of clinical simulations in which they will play the roles of disputants and mediators, with ongoing discussions and critiques of mediator performance.

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  • Bioethics, Sexuality, and Gender Identity
    Inspired by scholastic advancements in the Humanities on matters related to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI) studies, whereby a distinct field of queer studies has been created, this project aspires to take the next step for the benefit of LGBTQI persons in the medical world by marrying queer scholarship with bioethics studies and medical policy. While there has been substantial scholarship in the neighboring fields of sexuality studies and gender studies in recent years, such work has addressed only a handful of these important bioethical concerns. The Project on Bioethics, Sexuality, and Gender Identity, therefore, seeks to redress this scholastic omission by: demarcating a sub-field within bioethics that focuses exclusively on this interrelated set of issues; creating more visibility for and access to the important work that has already been done in both medical humanities and bioethics; highlighting the issues in this area that need scholarly attention; and taking the steps necessary to move the dialogue forward in bioethics and medical humanities. 
    Program Website
  • Bioethics and the Arts

    In an effort to celebrate, cultivate, and complicate the connections between contemporary bioethical topics and artistic expressions on the biosciences, the “Bioethics & the Arts” program sponsors several artistic-themed events each year.  Since 2016, our flagship event has been our annual Bioethics Film Festival.  But we also embrace and sponsor events related to the intersections of bioethics with the visual arts, literature, theater, and film. By extension, Penn’s “Bioethics & the Arts” program asks many bioethically minded questions: How is a museum best curated?  How is a play most faithfully staged?  How does a novel or a memoir best serve as bioethical evidence?  How does a work of art faithfully reveal ethical testimony? Director: Lance Wahlert, PhD

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