Students earning the MS degree will complete 30 credits of coursework in bioethics including a final project. The master's project may be formatted as a traditional thesis, publishable journal articles, or a practical project. This project will demonstrate an advanced understanding of an area of bioethics and health policy.

The curriculum includes an orientation to common conceptual, and quantitative and qualitative empirical research methods as applied to the field of bioethics, as well as skills to analyze ethical situations in a range of professions and areas of expertise.

Term Dates
Fall 2023Sept. 6 - Nov. 14
Winter 2024Jan. 3 - March 2
Spring 2024March 20 - May 28
Summer 2024June 12 - Aug. 20
Fall 2024Sept. 4 - Nov. 12
Winter 2025Jan. 8 - March 18
Spring 2025March 26 - June 3
Summer 2025June 11 - Aug. 19
Course Rotations
AMBI 503 Fundamentals of Clinical EthicsAMBI 504 Public Health Ethics, Law and Policy AMBI 501 Empirical Methods in Bioethics AMBI 505 Law and Bioethics
AMBI 508 Philosophical Foundations in BioethicsAMBI 505 Law and BioethicsAMBI 506 Foundations in Research Ethics
AMBI 606 Justice and Health CareAMBI 605 Intercultural BioethicsAMBI 603 Clinical Ethics PracticumAMBI 602 Genethics
AMBI 607 Pediatric Ethics, Healthcare, and PolicyAMBI 612 End of Life Ethics, Policy, and LawAMBI 604 Clinical Ethics CapstoneAMBI 615 Ethics in Healthcare Business
AMBI 624 Classic Cases in BioethicsAMBI 721 Skills in Policy and Program DevelopmentAMBI 610 Reproductive EthicsAMBI 619 Mental Health Ethics
AMBI 617 Population Health EthicsAMBI 625 Clinical Ethics Consultation Intensive
AMBI 702 Master’s Project AMBI 702 Master’s Project
Course Rotations
AMBI 503 Fundamentals of Clinical EthicsAMBI 504 Public Health Ethics, Law and Policy AMBI 501 Empirical Methods in Bioethics AMBI 505 Law and Bioethics
AMBI 506 Foundations in Research EthicsAMBI 505 Law and BioethicsAMBI 508 Philosophical Foundations in Bioethics
AMBI 606 Justice and Health CareAMBI 612 End of Life Ethics, Policy, and LawAMBI 603 Clinical Ethics PracticumAMBI 615 Ethics in Healthcare Business
AMBI 607 Pediatric Ethics, Healthcare, and PolicyAMBI 627 Advanced Topics in Research EthicsAMBI 604 Clinical Ethics CapstoneAMBI 619 Mental Health Ethics
AMBI 618 NeuroethicsAMBI 628 Justice and Equity in Scientific ResearchAMBI 610 Reproductive EthicsAMBI 624 Classic Cases in Bioethics
AMBI 721 Skills in Policy and Program DevelopmentAMBI 617 Population Health EthicsAMBI 625 Clinical Ethics Consultation Intensive
AMBI 702 Master’s Project AMBI 702 Master’s Project

Core Course Descriptions

Course ID: AMBI 501

This course is designed to give students an orientation to common conceptual, and 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 philosophy, anthropology and sociology can be used for scholarship in bioethics. The course will briefly address the evolution of bioethics methods from normative to empirical research and then discuss a range of empirical methods including content analysis, surveys, focus groups and individual interviews. The course assignments include critically evaluating different methods and undertaking a final mock research project.

Course ID: AMBI 503

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.

Course ID: AMBI 504

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 health care, nutrition policy, environmental health ethics, prevention policy, global public health and justice and public health.

Course ID: AMBI 505

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.

Course ID: AMBI 506

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.

Course ID: AMBI 508

This course is intended to serve as a broad introduction to the philosophical concepts and approaches used in bioethics. It is meant to be a foundational experience in their bioethics education that will be used in all of their inquiries into bioethical problems. We will read Principles of Biomedical Ethics by Tom L. Beauchamp and James F. Childress because no single book has shaped the field of bioethics and bioethical inquiry more. First published in 1979, this book has become the dominant ethical paradigm for biomedical ethical analysis and discussion in our democratic, secular society. Over the years, it has been continually revised to keep apace with how the basic principles and theories of bioethics apply to the intricate value laden dilemmas of medicine and health care policy. For those entering the field, it is an essential book to master from cover to cover as a foundational text, which is why this volume will be the sole text for this course.

Course ID: AMBI 702

As the final requirement for the Master of Science in Bioethics program, all students must complete AMBI 702. The purpose of the Research Project course is to demonstrate an advanced understanding of an area of bioethics and health policy. Although typically AMBI 702 is completed in two ten-week terms, students may take longer if necessary to complete the project. Students will receive a final grade upon completion of the project. A student is required to identify a faculty member as supervisor for the project to help advice and ensure fulfillment of the requirements for the course. Regardless of the number of terms until completion, tuition will only be charged once, when the student first registers.

Students are expected to work with the project supervisor. The student should draft a 1-2 page proposal of the expected paper(s) with the project supervisor. The final product can be any one of three types:

1) Two Journal-Style Articles: The student is expected to complete two journal-style papers each around 3,500-4,000 words. Most students review the ethics and policy of a given topic and argue a particular thesis although the specific design of the project should be discussed and agreed upon by the student and supervisor. The two papers can be on the same topic or can be on different topics. However, the two papers should be considered sufficiently different to yield two independent scholarly products. It is possible that the paper(s) may be submitted to a relevant journal by the end of the course.

2) Single Comprehensive Paper: The student is expected to complete a single scholarly (conceptual) paper of approximately 8,000-10,000 words – or – an empirical research study accompanying a short report of approximately 3,500 words. For the scholarly conceptual paper, most students review the ethics and policy of a given topic and argue a particular thesis although the specific design of the project should be discussed and agreed upon by the student and the supervisor. It is possible that the conceptual article may be submitted to a relevant journal by the end of the course. Some students have undertaken an empirical research project where they conduct research by collecting and analyzing data. The empirical research option requires students to also write a report which includes research background literature, objective(s), methods, and the results and analysis of the data. For the empirical research option, students must work closely with their supervisor and have sufficient experience conducting empirical bioethics research. Usually students are on-site to conduct empirical research projects with a mentor.

3) Applied Project: An applied project aims to have a 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 the supervisor and possibly an onsite mentor within the setting of the project. Examples of applied projects include developing policies or bioethics courses.

Grading: The student is expected to work with the supervisor and meet the expectations of the supervisor. For each of the 3 types of final products for the project course, the supervisor will work with the student and provide feedback. Once the supervisor’s expectations are met, a second reader (another AMBI faculty member) will review the product(s) and provide feedback. Upon satisfaction and agreement by the second reader, the product(s) will be completed and the supervisor will provide a letter grade to the student.

Course ID: AMBI 628

This course will explore issues of equity, justice, and inclusion in scientific research, particularly in settings of social inequality. Drawing on the history and anthropology of science as well as bioethics, the course examines how researchers, clinicians, and research participants in diverse contexts understand and navigate the ethical obligations of research, and the benefits and burdens of research participation. We will use case studies from genomics, global health research, and prison research to understand barriers to equity and inclusion and explore how contexts of structural inequality shape scientific inquiry and findings. We will also consider current thinking on methods for designing and conducting scientific research that is just, equitable, and inclusive.

Elective Course Descriptions

Course ID: AMBI 602
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).

Course ID: AMBI 603
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.

Course ID: AMBI 604
This week-long course takes place virtually, in a combination of practice and lecture. Much of the training is done in partnership with Albany Medical Center's 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 health care settings; including how to establish and run a hospital ethics committee, conduct a family meeting, and do clinical ethics education for health care 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. Please note- this course is only offered in the spring term, and takes place in mid-May.
Pre-requisite: AMBI 503 and 603 or permission of the instructor.

Course ID: AMBI 605
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. health care with its patently diverse population of patients and health professionals.  In health care, 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 health care services.  Now that U.S. health care 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.

Course ID: AMBI 606
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.

Course ID: AMBI 607
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.

Course ID: AMBI 608
Medications impact the quality of life of innumerable people; patients and health care providers face ethical dilemmas involving medication use daily. Decisions to use medications often fail to include a thorough analysis of the ethics involved—a complete understanding of the benefits and burdens entailed. Topics for analysis and case study that include pain medications, addiction, medical marijuana, family planning, matters of conscience, allocation of scarce resources, end-of-life situations, marketing and development, and genetics offer students an opportunity to explore the challenging ethical, legal, and public policy dilemmas involved in medication use today. Foundational ethical principles and models are emphasized throughout the course.

Course ID: AMBI 610
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.

Course ID: AMBI 612
This course addresses ethical legal and policy 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.

Course ID: AMBI 615
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.

Course ID: AMBI 617
This course addresses a range of issues in public health ethics. The first part of the course will introduce ethical frameworks and concepts relevant to public health. It also describes the overlap and distinctions between public health and medical ethics. Students will use a case-based approach to address ethical dilemmas.

Course ID: AMBI 618
This course will focus both on the ethics of neuroscience and the neuroscience of ethics. During the course we will discuss, the ethical implication of memory manipulation, the impact of brain imaging on mental privacy, the permissibility of the use of cognitive enhancement, brain death, and issues related to disorders of consciousness. This course will emphasize issues that have application to clinical and research settings, such as criteria for brain death or the permissibility of prescribing cognitive enhancers.

Course ID: AMBI 619
This course explores ethical, legal and policy issues related to mental health and illness. The perspective the course adopts is that of a practitioner whether attorney, clinician or policy maker actively engaged in some dimension of clinical care. The good of the patient within a fiduciary relationship is the starting and ending point for all ethical, legal and policy questions and concerns in mental health treatment. Ethical norms, professional codes, regulations and statutes, institutional and government policies should be evaluated in terms of their adequacy and integrity in promoting the welfare of mental health patients who have unique strengths and vulnerabilities that require mental health practitioners to have equally specialized knowledge and skills. Concepts and realities of power and risk are more pervasive, prominent, and profound in mental health care than in any other area of bioethics and like at the heart of the difficult dilemmas encountered in the microcosm of clinical care and court cases and the macrocosm of policy formation and implementation and legislative and regulatory action we will examine in this course

Course ID: AMBI 623
Religion remains a pervasive force in 21st century life, shaping the lives and worldview of many people across the globe.  This is no less true in medicine, where religious convictions often inform bioethical debates and medical decision-making, particularly at the beginning and end of life. This course examines the fundamental question of whether or not bioethics is or should be a primarily secular enterprise and if there is a role for religion how its nature and scope can be delineated in a pluralistic democratic society. The course examines how religions values shape difficult clinical encounters, including religiously motivated refusals of medical care (in particular, Jehovah’s Witnesses’ refusal of blood products) and religiously motivated demands for treatment (in particular, requests for ventilator support and other aggressive measures after a determination of brain death.) As well as distinguishing  the moral and legal dimensions of such refusals and demands for adults, children and adolescents. We extend this question of conscience to health care professionals and investigate the contemporary controversy regarding conscientious objection in medicine. In addition, the course will explore how adherents of these ancient traditions, be they patients, practitioners or families, grapple with dilemmas of everyday practice as well as those conflicts that arise when individuals face serious medical illness. These religiously informed bioethics approaches will be applied to critical junctures in health care such as the beginning of life, medical decision-making and physician-patient relationships, organ transplantation, and a special focus on end-of-life issues. Throughout this part of the course we will draw salient comparisons and contrasts between the ways in which core bioethical concerns are expressed and interpreted in the major religions.

Course ID: AMBI 624
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.

Course ID: AMBI 625
The clinical ethics consultation intensive will provide an opportunity for advanced bioethics students to gain mastery in the area of clinical ethics consultation. Students will participate in ethics consultations and discuss and analyze past cases handled by the Albany Med Health System consultation service. The students will be encouraged to learn how to formulate recommendations by exploring the values and concerns of patients, families, and health care providers. This is a two-week hybrid course that will be conducted in‐person at Alden March Bioethics Institute of Albany Medical College at the Albany Med Health System in Albany, NY and virtually on the Sakai learning platform.
Pre-Reqs: AMBI 503, 505, 603, 604

Course ID: AMBI 627
This course will cover some of the major topics in research ethics, particularly research involving human participants. The course will be focused on the ethical justification of human participation in research, models of research ethics oversight, research with human samples, the distinction between public health practice and clinical research. In addition, during the course, we will consider the concept of vulnerability, conflicts of interest in clinical research, and ethical issues surrounding recruitment of participants.
Pre-Reqs: AMBI 506

Course ID: AMBI 642
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 PhD 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.