Master of Science Core Courses
(AMBI 501) Empirical Methods in Bioethics: This course is designed to give students an orientation to common quantitative and qualitative empirical research methods as applied to the field of bioethics. We will review how such research originating primarily from the disciplines of anthropology and sociology can be used for further scholarship in bioethics. The course will briefly address the interface between the social sciences and bioethics by examining some theoretical perspectives and selected contributions that empirical research has made to bioethics. The bulk of the course will consist of providing students the tools to undertake a research project (mock) by illustrating and practicing each step in the research process utilized in thorough scientific explorations.
(AMBI 503) Fundamentals of Clinical Ethics: This course is a comprehensive overview of the history of ethics committees, ethics consultation process and the topics which commonly arise in today’s practice setting .Information gathering, identifying different points of view, defining the dilemma, talking to the parties involved, negotiating goals and analysis of the case will be covered, culminating in a comprehensive write-up that can be utilized by the practitioners involved. The following topics will be covered: consultation process, goals of care, case analysis skills, futility, capacity, artificial nutrition, withholding and withdrawing life support, advance directives, informed consent, reproductive issues, and running family meetings.
(AMBI 504) Public Health Ethics, Law, and Policy: This course focuses on ethical issues that arise in the conduct of public health practice and public health research. This course discusses the foundational concepts at stake in public health ethics as well as the practical tools which exist to help public health practitioners, researchers, and policy makers resolve ethical problems in public health. The course addresses a number of current topics in public health ethics including health care policy including universal access to healthcare, nutrition policy, environmental health ethics, prevention policy, global public health and justice and public health.
(AMBI 505) Law and Bioethics: This course provides an introduction to the major legal issues and concepts arising in the field of bioethics: clinical decision-making, informed consent, organ donation and transplantation, physician assisted suicide, ethics in managed care, death and dying, and medical research.
(AMBI 506) Foundations of Research Ethics: The purpose of this course is three-fold: 1) to engage students in reading, considering, and discussing the responsible conduct of scientific research; 2) to familiarize students with the basic ethical principles guiding modern biomedical research; and 3) to acquaint students with the basic ethical underpinnings and legal requirements for conducting research with human subjects and with animals in the U.S. Although this course will focus primarily on issues involving the use of human subjects in biomedical research, it is designed to give students to basic fundamental skills necessary to understand ethical principles as they apply to all aspects of laboratory and clinical research. The following topics will be covered: basic ethical theory and principles as they apply to the culture of science; scientific and academic integrity, including such topics as peer review and conflict of interest; regulation of human subjects research; informed consent in research; the just selection of research participants; risk and benefit in research; appropriate use of placebos; protection of vulnerable subjects; and the use of animals in research.
(AMBI 507) Classic Cases in Bioethics: This course will focus on a study of the classic cases that have shaped and defined the fields of medical ethics and bioethics. By critically reading, discussing and writing about these classic cases, students will get a sound overview of the field of bioethics. This includes a basic understanding the full range of topics from the main areas of bioethics including end of life care, abortion, embryonic stem cells, human and animal research, organ transplantation, involuntary commitment, genetic testing, global epidemics to social justice and ethical theory. Students will achieve an advanced, baseline proficiency in basic knowledge about the range of topics of bioethics and in the specialized skills of understanding and using ethical theory and philosophical analysis and argumentation. By learning the historical accounts of problem or paradigm cases, students will gain a multi-disciplinary perspective characteristic of contemporary bioethics. This perspective brings to bear, in addition to the historical context, an appreciation for ethical problems at the intersection of philosophical ethics, law and public policy.
(AMBI 702) Master's Project Course: All students in the Master of Science program in Bioethics will take AMBI 702. AMBI 702 will be graded on a letter grade scale. Although typically AMBI 702 is completed in two ten-week terms, students may take longer if necessary to complete the project. Upon final completion of the project, the student will receive his/her grade. Each participant will work directly under a mentor to provide ongoing supervision and ensure fulfillment of the requirements for the courses. Regardless of the number of terms until completion, tuition will only be charged once, when the student first registers.
Expectations for the Master’s Project:
Each student will submit a proposal in the beginning of the term in which s/he is taking 702. The Master’s Project will be assigned for 3 credits/ approximately 90 hours.
This proposal will outline a course of study, which may be one of three types:
1) Two Journal Articles—A research study, either analytical or empirical, that will be ready for submission to a relevant journal by the end of the course. The research option must include clear objectives, a literature search, and an analysis of data/information collected by the student. The expectation is that two journal articles will result and be ready for submission. The grading will be carried out by the primary advisor and another faculty member familiar with the topic.
2) Applied Project—A project with applied, practical application to a particular setting, accompanied by a thorough and systematic write-up regarding the project’s development, implementation and outcome. The project should have practical value and should be a response to a well-defined need in the clinical, research or work-setting of the student. The write-up should reflect the evolution of the project and an account of the student’s own professional development within that setting. Usually the student will work both with an AMBI faculty mentor and an onsite mentor within the setting of the project.
3) Comprehensive, Scholarly Paper—A scholarly paper reflecting a comprehensive analysis of an approved topic, along the lines of a traditional thesis. The topic, a detailed plan and length of the paper must be clearly established with the mentor at the outset.
Master of Science and Doctorate of Professional Studies Electives
(AMBI 602) GenEthics: Until recently, human genetics focused on rare, single-gene disorders and the occasional quirky inherited trait. That has changed radically with the new millennium, as we have learned the entire human genome sequence and are beginning to glimpse how it varies. Attention is increasingly focused on the more common illnesses that reflect the input of many genes as well as the environment. Ironically, at the same time, everyday language reflects genetic determinism, the idea that we are our genes -- she has "the gene for" something or "it's in his DNA." The relevance of this new view of human genetics to bioethics is that it brings this once fairly obscure field to everyone. We encounter genetics not only in the traditional medical setting, but in the many direct-to-consumer tests that purport to do everything from catching a cheating spouse to testing a child for inherited athletic prowess to tracing ancestry to predicting how we might die. On the clinical genetics front, diagnostics and prognostics are far outpacing therapeutics (gene and stem cell therapies).
(AMBI 603) Online Practicum in Clinical Ethics: This is a course that focuses on the rigorous development and assessment of the practical analytical skills of the hospital clinical ethicist. There will be frequent case write-ups necessary for consultation along with exercises related to hospital and health care policy and educations.
Pre-requisite: AMBI 503 or permission of the instructor.
(AMBI 604) Onsite Clinical Ethics Capstone: This course takes place onsite at the Albany Medical Center, in Albany, NY, which provides tertiary and quaternary care to a surrounding 25 county regions, essentially all of upstate New York and surrounding regions in New England. Much of the onsite training is done at Albany Medical Center's brand new $8.8 million state of the art Patient Safety and Clinical Competency Center, where residents and medical students are also taught. This practicum teaches students the hands-on skills required to do ethics consultation and mediation in healthcare settings; including how to establish and run a hospital ethics committee, conduct a family meeting, and do clinical ethics education for healthcare practitioners. The practicum also exposes students to clinical settings and actual ethics committees in addition to interacting with standardized patients to practice and learn clinical ethics skills.
Pre-requisite: AMBI 503 and 603 or permission of the instructor.
(AMBI 605) Intercultural Bioethics: This course addresses issues in bioethics from various cultural perspectives. It examines degrees to which other cultures may view similar issues and topics as morally problematic. It also explores ways in which cultures address and resolve moral tensions. In view of the growing interest in examining bioethics within a global context, this course is especially relevant for U.S. healthcare with its patently diverse population of patients and health professionals. In healthcare, cultural world views exert a conspicuously powerful influence that challenges the universality of Western medical ethical principles. Moreover, disregarding, misinterpreting, and stereotyping other cultural health-views further sustains diminished and disparate healthcare services. Now that U.S. healthcare and regulatory measures underscore the importance of cultural competence, there is an explicit need to enhance cultural sensitivity through appropriate knowledge, skills, and attitudes. Students are not encouraged to adopt any particular ethical position or view but rather gain an ability to review and analyze the reasons that support various norms and opinions in the new and exciting frontier of intercultural bioethics.
(AMBI 606) Social Justice and Medicine: Bioethical debate often centers upon questions of individual decision-making. Fairness, an important concept, is often presented only in connection to scarce resources, personal or cultural values, while ultimate questions of fairness --questions of social justice-- tend to be left to the realm of policy and politics. More recently, bioethicists have taken up the question of public health priorities and the social determinants of health within the bioethics domain. Scholars in public health, similarly, have not only tackled the issue of social injustice but have also tried to elucidate the ethical challenges that follow. This course aims to first raise a discussion about health and justice as large concepts. It then addresses the question of the social determinants of health and the public health infrastructure. The conclusion of the course is a discussion of discrete topics in the intersection of health and social injustice.
(AMBI 607) Pediatric Ethics, Law, and Policy: This course will introduce ethical topics in the areas of pediatric medicine and research. Although many tools of ethical reflection and deliberation have no relationship to the age of the population being considered, there are aspects of the pediatric population that raise unique concerns, create novel moral environments, and thus require nuanced and sensitive attention to and tools of ethical inquiry. Children are not just adults in smaller packaging, and while many of them develop physical and cognitive abilities that slowly become adult-like, not being “fully adult” (whatever we might mean by that) entails that we need to handle their care differently—medically, psychological, morally, legally, and so on.
(AMBI 608) Drugs and Drug Use: Ethical, Legal, and Public Policy Considerations: Patients and health care providers face ethical dilemmas involving drugs and drug and drug use daily. Specific cases involving tobacco, COX-2 inhibitors, medical marijuana, emergency contraceptives, pain medicines, drugs used in assisted suicide, drugs prescribed at life's end, and gene therapy research drugs offer students an opportunity to explore the challenging ethical, legal, and public policy dilemmas involved in drug use in America today. Foundational ethical principles and models are emphasized throughout the course.
(AMBI 609) Survey of Philosophy and Bioethics: This course is intended to serve as a broad introduction to the philosophical concepts and approaches used in bioethics. Each module of the course will cover essential bioethics concepts, classic readings in that area, as well as a case for discussion.
(AMBI 610) Reproductive Ethics: This course aims to introduce students to the range of issues related to reproductive ethics, law and policy that result from the development of new technologies and innovations. In this course, students will be asked to grapple with tough questions regarding the concept of procreative liberty, whether there is a right to reproduce, and if so, what are its limits, what it means to be a parent, who should be allowed to parent, whether it is morally acceptable to want to have a genetically modified or “enhanced” child, and whether advances in genetic technologies that make such choices possible are good things for our society.
(AMBI 611) Women and Bioethics: Issues Outside Reproduction: Bioethical issues profoundly affect women’s lives: women’s bodies and gendered social roles imply a particular stake in these issues. Women carry babies, live longer than men on average, and provide care most of the time of children and elders, as well as sick and disabled people. Moreover, globally, women are more likely to live in poverty and have difficulty accessing health care. This course will examine a range of bioethical topics in light of these gender differences to develop an understanding of how these issues are perceived or resolved in women’s lives. While much has been written on women and reproductive issues such as surrogacy, prenatal genetic testing, abortion, and assisted reproductive technologies, less attention has been given to equally compelling topics such as aging, care-giving, medical research, neuroethics, and health care policy. This course is intended to fill that gap by covering bioethical concerns beyond reproduction.
(AMBI 612) End of Life Ethics, Law and Policy: This course addresses ethical issues related to end of life care including the definition of brain death, decision-making capacity, do-not-resuscitate orders, patient privacy and confidentiality, and end of life issues with special populations including children and the mentally ill. The course also addresses the role of the ethics committee in resolving ethical questions in these situations and a number of the court cases that have set precedents in these areas.
(AMBI 615) Ethics of Healthcare Business: This course exposes you to the enduring ethical challenges facing the business of medicine and “medical-industrial complex” that are unique to the United States. This course interweaves practical/applied case studies with philosophical/theoretical analysis to equip you with a more nuanced and reflective understanding of the ethical, legal, and policy challenges facing the health care business, including: the tensions among costs, profits, and justice in the delivery of health care, especially in the context of end-of-life care; specific challenges facing hospital administrators and managers around issues of employment and labor; patients’ rights, stewardship of resources, and service to the community; research and marketing practices of the pharmaceutical industry; and the impact of commercialization on the medical profession and patient experience.
(AMBI 641) Independent Study: Students can arrange to do independent study with AMBI faculty with the permission of the Director of Graduate Studies. Independent studies will allow students to explore topics in greater depth than in their courses or to explore topics not covered in the curriculum, but that are of interest to the student.
(AMBI 642) Onsite Introduction to Research Ethics: This course is designed to provide an introduction to research ethics for students combining the Masters in Bioethics with Doctoral studies in the basic sciences. Students will complete AMC 507 and AMC 612, courses required of all Ph.D. students, prior to entering the program. Students who have completed these courses will prepare for and complete a written examination. This will be a competency based evaluation in which students will be asked to apply the principles and techniques of moral reasoning to the evaluation of research ethics scenarios. 3 credits-Pass/Fail. For MS/PhD dual degree students only.
Virtual Fellowship and Core Doctorate of Professional Studies Courses
The Virtual Fellowship is a series of five courses. The first four courses are designed to provide advanced training in the ASBH Core Competencies for students who are 1) working in or have access to a hospital, clinical setting, 2) interested in working as an individual clinical ethics consultant and 3) graduates of the AMBI graduate certificate in clinical ethics or MS in bioethics that includes AMBI 603 and AMBI 604. It is understood that the student who elects to begin work in the advanced graduate certificate in clinical ethics consultation program makes the commitment to complete the entire four-course series and a fifth course on mediation and conflict management, or has special permission from the instructor in consultation with the graduate studies director.
(AMBI 710) Adults with Capacity: The focus of this course is on the ethical issues that arise in the care and treatment of patients with capacity. The course focuses on the meaning and practical implications of patient autonomy, informed consent, and capacity in the clinical setting. It orients students to the clinical assessment of capacity, especially patients with marginal capacity; and it fosters the ability in students to exercise sound ethical reasoning and make sound judgments in cases involving such issues as excessive influence of families, religious and cultural values, discharge planning and end of life options, among others. Also, the rights of patients with capacity to request medically inappropriate treatments from physicians is explored and discussed in light of prevailing ethical and legal standards.
(AMBI 711) Adults without Capacity: This course focuses on ethical issues that arise in the care and decision making for adults without capacity. Cases exemplify dilemmas about advance directives, surrogates, identifying goals of care, conflict within the family and with the health team, “futile” requests, requests for premature discontinuation of treatment, the impact of cultural and religious views on decision making, quality of life issues and finally, discharge planning problems with ethical components.
(AMBI 712) Neonates, Infants, Children, and Adolescents: This course focuses on the ethical issues that arise in the care and treatment of minor patients. The course reflects on ethical dilemmas in the clinical setting involving children. It orients students to the best interests standard in medical decision making; doctrines affecting mature or emancipated minors; statutory authority to provide care without parental or guardian consent; determination of death and organ transplantation issues for children; medical futility and treatment decisions for children when medical facts and predictions are uncertain; ethical issues involving special needs children and children with chronic disease; ethical concerns about immunizations, child abuse, and medical neglect; ethical dilemmas involving the reproductive rights of minors; human subject research issues and children; and children and health care delivery systems and financing matters.
(AMBI 713) Special Situations and Vulnerable Populations Emphasizing Equity, Fairness, Justice and Health Care Delivery Policy: The focus of this course is on the ethical issues that arise with special situations and vulnerable populations. The course emphasizes equity, fairness, justice, and health care delivery policy. It orients students to the ethical dilemmas that arise in caring for pregnant patients, prisoners, HIV-AIDS patients, patients with genetic diseases and conditions, patients with mental illnesses or physical disabilities, patients who might benefit from innovative treatments or new technologies, human research subjects, patients injured from medical misadventures or errors, documented and undocumented foreign nationals, and patients impacted by the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA) and Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
(AMBI 720) Conflict Competence in Clinical Ethics Consultation: The focus of this course is developing skills competencies and exploring strategies to effectively manage conflicts that might arise or be identified as the individual healthcare ethics consultant assists in the resolution of patient care or bedside clinical ethics dilemmas. The on-site classroom experiences and online educational forums focus on the origins of conflict in clinical settings, the applicability of alternative dispute resolution mechanisms to clinical ethics consultation, the arts and sciences of negotiation and mediation, and the appropriateness of arbitration and litigation in resolving disagreements. The class reviews thoroughly two specific situations in which conflict has been a feature of many clinical ethics consultation cases: determining capacity and dealing with surrogates; and deciding to forgo additional futile interventions.
Doctorate of Professional Studies Requirements
(AMBI 800) Doctoral Research Project: As the final requirement for the DPS program, all students in Bioethics will complete AMBI 800. The purpose of the Research Project is to demonstrate an advanced understanding of an area of clinical ethics and to make helpful, applied contributions to the field of clinical ethics consultation. This research will reflect both the student’s understanding of the field of clinical ethics consultation and the ability to do research and/or develop an applied project within the student’s home professional work setting that will have practical significance for those that provide clinical ethics consultations.
The research project will be one of three types:
1) Two Journal Articles—a research study, either analytical or empirical, that will yield two papers ready for submission to an appropriate journal by the end of AMBI 800. The two papers do not have to be on the same topic. Each paper must include clear objectives, a thorough literature search, and an analysis of issues relevant to the topics. Both articles should be prepared for, and submitted to, a bioethics journal agreed upon by the student and mentor. The student will work with his or her faculty mentor to determine when the articles are ready to submit and is the most appropriate journal to which to submit.
2) Applied Project—an advanced project that will have a significant positive impact in a particular setting. The project will be accompanied by a thorough and systematic write-up regarding the project’s development, implementation and outcome. The project should be a response to an important, well-defined need or problem in the clinical, research or work setting of the student. The write-up should describe the evolution and also the methodological approach of the project as a response to the need or problem within the student’s work setting. The student should provide evidence that the project is at least in the implementation stage by the end of the term in which the project begins. Student will work both with an AMBI faculty mentor and an onsite mentor within the setting of the project.
3) Comprehensive, Scholarly Paper—a refined, in depth scholarly paper, along the lines of a traditional, short dissertation, that provides a comprehensive analysis of an approved topic in clinical ethics consultation that has significant practical import for practitioners. The recommended length will be between 50-75 pages.
Students in the DPS program should contact their mentor at least two terms prior to beginning AMBI 800 to discuss specific the required procedures and timelines they must follow.
(Oral Qualifying Exams): In order for a student to begin work on the final Research Project, he or she must first demonstrate proficiency in knowledge of and familiarity with clinical ethics consultation. To meet the requirements of initiating the doctoral project, students must pass a two part oral examination, a written exam documenting a case from the oral exam and an oral defense of the student’s proposed research project. The two-part oral exam and research project oral defense will be conducted either in person or via video conferencing. The student must pass each part sequentially. Students should contact their mentor at least two terms prior to their interest in beginning the final Research Project to discuss with their mentor the timeline and procedures for completing these exams.