Undergraduate Minor

Bioethics is dedicated to the identification and exploration of the moral problems which arise in medicine, health care and the life sciences. Offered in collaboration with the Department of Philosophy, the Undergraduate Minor in Bioethics provides JHU students with the conceptual and analytical tools necessary to address ethical issues in clinical practice, public health and scientific research, all in both local and global contexts.


The requirements for the bioethics minor consist of eight courses. These must include:

  • 150.219 Bioethics
    Introduction to a wide range of moral issues arising in the biomedical fields, e.g. physician-assisted suicide, human cloning, abortion, surrogacy, and human subjects research. Cross listed with Public Health Studies.
  • 150.220 Introduction to Moral Philosophy
    In this class we will study classic figures in the history of moral philosophy, and we will periodically illuminate their views by exploring contemporary issues in applied ethics. No prior coursework in philosophy required. No prerequisites.
  • Either 020.151 and 020.152 (General Biology I and II) OR 020.306 and 020.306 (Biochemistry and Cell Biology)
    This course begins with an overview of the biosphere, followed by analysis of ecosystem and exploration of animal behavior in the context of ecosystems and evolution. Next, the cellular and molecular basis of life and the energetics of organisms are presented as unifying themes. The biochemistry of organic molecules, factors controlling gene expression, cellular metabolism, and advances in biotechnology represent topics of concentration. Mechanisms of inheritance and evolution are introduced. This course will also include a series of workshops that will explore current trends in research, experimental design and analysis, and molecular modeling. Cross-listed with Behavioral Biology
  • At least two upper-level seminars offered by the Bioethics program. Recent courses have included:
    • The Ethics of Body Modification
      This course examines the ethical, historical and political issues surrounding body modifications. It explores the ways in which medical technologies have intersected with cultural constructions of gender, age, sexuality and race to produce ways of altering the human corporeal form. The course looks at a myriad of difference body modifications, concentrating mostly upon the Twentieth Century, but reaching as far back as the early modern period. Topics include: cosmetic surgery, transsexuality, bodybuilding, sports doping, dieting, anorexia, piercing, tattooing, fashion, make-up, and mythic modifications, such as vampires and werewolves. The course looks at the ways in which these modifications have been used variously to conform to, subvert and expose social norms about bodily appearance, as well as interogating the means by which medicine and science are implicit in the cultural construction of those norms.
    • The Ethics of Human Experimentation
      This course uses historical case studies to explore the major ethical issues arising in experimentation and research on human subjects. Issues discussed include: Informed consent; risk/benefit analysis; justice in subject selection (including research and experimentation in international contexts); participation of vulnerable populations (the mentally ill, children, prisoners, military personnel); clinical equipoise; and deception in psychological and behavioral research. Case studies include: The Willowbrook school case, the Tuskegee syphillis studies, the Nazi experimentation programs, MKULTRA, the human radiation experiments, the Stanford prison experiment, and the Holmesburg prison case. The course will also explore the emergence and development of the rules governing the protection of human subjects research.
  • Courses totaling six credits, which can be either upper-level bioethics seminars not counted in fulfillment of the previous requirement, courses cross-listed in the bioethics program, or other courses approved by the program’s advisory committee.

Program Leadership

Hilary Bok, PhD
Director of Undergraduate Bioethics Program; Associate Professor