The Mater of Bioethics degree is comprised of 9 course units:

2 Required Core Courses

  • Proseminar (BIOE 7010). This course is designed to expose first-year MBE students to a broad range of topics, debates, and research methods in contemporary bioethics. The course explores ethical questions raised by emerging neuroscience technology, health care for incarcerated individuals, drug development and approval, COVID policy, the diagnosis and treatment of Alzheimer’s Disease, and other topics. Students will build critical skills for conducting bioethics research, including how to review and synthesize scholarly work in bioethics, how to craft a compelling bioethics research question, and how to marshal empirical evidence in support of a bioethics argument. Students work in teams to conduct in-depth analysis of an emerging issue in bioethics. Each team will deliver an in-class presentation for the final work of the class.
  • Foundations of Bioethics (BIOE 6020). This course examines the two moral frameworks individuals use in ethics decision-making, deontology and consequentialism. Understanding one's own framework enables one to make more effective arguments, and understanding the alternative framework helps one engage and respond to the arguments of others. This course also introduces students to the conceptual framework specific to the field of bioethics, casuistry, narrative theory, and principlism. 

1 Course in a Core Content Area

  • Students are required to take one class in a core area of bioethics: Policy, or Research Ethics, or Clinical Ethics. Each semester we offer a variety of courses in these various content areas. 

6 Electives

  • Introduction to Bioethical Argument (BIOE 6010) (Strongly Encouraged). This course is intended to serve as an introduction to the academic field of bioethics.  Students will be introduced to classic papers, basic concepts, field history and important legal cases in the field. But rather than being a broad survey course of many content areas in bioethics, this course will examine how bioethical arguments are constructed with the objective of mastering both the critique of bioethical arguments and their construction. Therefore, most importantly, this course serves as a “methods course” for learning the skill of persuasive bioethics argument, i.e., “the art of conversion.” In some of the course sessions, we will focus on the analysis of arguments made by others. In many of the weeks of the course, we will focus on the process of constructing our own, effective bioethical arguments.
  • Electives
  • Optional Capstone Project (BIOE 9960). A research project that results in a publishable quality paper.

The MBE Student Worksheet will help you and your advising team plan your MBE career

See more information on specific dual-degree requirements here.

Penn MBE Clinical Ethics Mediation Certificate

The Department of Medical Ethics & Health Policy also offers the Penn MBE Clinical Ethics Mediation Certificate. This Certificate can be added to the Master of Bioethics degree, offering students (and alumni) the opportunity to receive additional conflict resolution training. This certificate option is only available to students who are in the MBE program. Click here for an application to the Penn Clinical Ethics Mediation Certificate.

Students interested in pursuing the combined MBE/Clinical Ethics Certificate will complete an application for the certificate program, in addition to the MBE application.  This additional application can be completed at the time of the original MBE application, or once the student is already admitted to the MBE program.  Students will be granted admission based on professional goals related to clinical ethics.  We will not require prior experience in clinical ethics as an admissions criterion.

Background: The current national discussion in bioethics about standards for good clinical ethics practice have pressed Master of Bioethics programs to consider specialized training for their students who perform, or hope to perform, clinical ethics consultations. As the premiere master of bioethics program in the country, the Penn Master of Bioethics provides training in conflict resolution, which is one of the core competencies outlined by the national bioethics organization (American Society for Bioethics and Humanities).

Certificate Description: The Penn MBE Certificate in Clinical Ethics Mediation is not intended to be a stand-alone degree, but is an “add-on” to the current Master of Bioethics degree. We believe that our clinical ethics consultants and mediators need conflict management training in addition to the broad, theoretical base we offer them in the master’s program; therefore, the Certificate cannot be a substitute for that important base. All Certificate students are required to complete the 9-course MBE degree, and then the Certificate requires 3 additional course units for a total of 12 course units (described below).

Audience: The certificate program is open to any MBE student or alumni who wishes to pursue it. It is ideally suited for anyone who intends to perform, or already participates in, formal clinical ethics consultations, or who believe that this additional clinical ethics training will enhance their work “at the bedside.” This includes practitioners such as, physicians, nurses, nurse practitioners, and social workers.

Timing: Students may complete the MBE and the Certificate concurrently, graduating both with the MBE and the Certificate in the same semester. Alternatively, a student can graduate with the MBE and then complete and be awarded the Certificate at a later date. All students who do not complete both at the same time are encouraged to work with the MBE office to create a plan for completion. Students who graduate before completing all of the Certificate requirements will have at most 2 years to complete the remaining coursework. MBE alumni who have not done any coursework toward the Certificate will have up to 5 years after receiving their MBE degree to apply for the Penn MBE Clinical Ethics Mediation Certificate.

Structure and Requirements: Students who wish to pursue the Penn MBE Clinical Ethics Mediation Certificate will be required to complete the following 12 course units:

BIOE 7010: Proseminar (1 CU)
BIOE 6020: Foundations (1 CU)
Policy OR Research Ethics OR Clinical Ethics   (1 CU)         
BIOE 6030: Clinical Ethics (1 CU)

Six (6) Electives (to be chosen by the student) (6 CUs)

Two (2) of the following:
BIOE 5450: Mediation Intensive I (1 CU)
BIOE 5460: Mediation Intensive II (1 CU)
BIOE 5470: Mediation Intensive III (1 CU)
BIOE 5480: Mediation Intensive IV (1 CU)
Total CUs:12

Each of the Mediation Intensive courses (BIOE 545, 546, 547, and 548) consists of 4 days of intensive practical training in mediation. To receive credit, students must also complete a 10-15 page writing requirement, due at the end of the semester in which the mediation course is being taken.

The Mediation Intensive courses are offered 3 times a year: (1) January, (2) May, between the Spring and Summer semesters, and (3): August or September.  Dates and times of upcoming Mediation Intensives can be found here.

Note that students not enrolled in the Clinical Ethics Mediation Certificate may only enroll in the Mediation Intensive by permission of the instructor and no more than 1 CU can count towards the MBE. Only students with clinical training are allowed to take the mediation intensive for course credit.

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