Clinical Ethics

Building knowledge and capacity for ethical decision making in the clinical realm

Addressing the the complex set of ethical issues associated with clinical practice

Through our close association with the Johns Hopkins Schools of Medicine and Nursing and the Bloomberg School of Public Health, the Berman Institute is an integral participant in the development of innovations in clinical practice.  Through our interactions with students, we are helping to advance an ethical framework for clinical practice among future health care practitioners and leaders.

Faculty

Berman Institute faculty members are active in both scholarly and academic roles but also in many other areas such as institutional review boards and operations, as well as many policy making initiatives. We invite you to learn more about our faculty and their contributions.

View Faculty in Clinical Ethics

Education

The Berman Institute leads efforts to create substantive educational experiences in clinical ethics for medical students, nursing students, residents, and other clinicians.

Medical Students

Berman Institute faculty members lead parts of the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine curriculum, which integrate themes of Ethics and Professionalism, Communication, and Cultural Competence throughout the four-year medical school curriculum. These themes are integrated into Selectives and Workshops within preclinical courses, small group sessions that introduce case-based analysis, medical/legal issues when students are transitioning from the classroom to clinical settings, and experiential learning of specific topics within clinical rotations. The Healer’s Art course for first year medical students includes a curriculum to help medical students identify, strengthen, and cultivate the human dimensions of the practice of medicine. Berman faculty also direct a first-year medical student Scholarly Concentrations course and offer a concentration in Ethics and the Art of Medicine.

Nursing Students

All Masters of Nursing students take a core course focused on the philosophical, theoretical, and ethical aspects of advance practice nursing. This course provides students with a foundation of ethical practice in nursing, offers a survey of key ethical issues in clinical practice, and builds foundational elements of ethical competence. The new Masters Entry Program will incorporate this core course as well as integrating ethics content throughout the entire curriculum including new seminars focusing on key clinical ethics topics.

Interns, Residents and Fellows

Berman Institute faculty members are actively involved in ethics education for trainees in the Departments of Medicine at Johns Hopkins Hospital (JHH) and Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center (JHBMC), Pediatrics, Surgery, Obstetrics and Gynecology, Neurology, Neurosurgery, Ophthalmology, and Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.  These efforts reach approximately 60% of all residents at Johns Hopkins. The Berman Institute also helps train fellows with interests in clinical ethics through its Hecht-Levi Fellowship Program and the Starkey Fellowship.

Clinicians

Each JHBMC monthly Ethics for Lunch conference session attracts 60–70 attendees drawn from the entire hospital community: physicians, medical students, nurses, social workers, chaplains, etc. They participate in discussion about an important clinical ethics issue. This model will soon be expanded to the JHH. Berman Institute faculty members also lead ethics rounds on selected clinical units.

Bioethics Intensives

The Berman Institute offers non-degree, short-form courses in bioethics each June through the Berman Institute Bioethics Intensives (BI2) program. BI2 courses are open to all and provide an engaging interactive learning opportunity to anyone interested in exploring bioethics. The courses focus on both theoretical and applied aspects of bioethics, including clinical ethics, so they are of practical value to medical, legal, and policy professionals, as well as researchers, scholars, and students.

Research/Scholarship

The Berman Institute produces ground-breaking scholarship on concepts in clinical ethics such as respect, dignity, trust, and compassion. Clinical ethics scholarship and within the Berman Institute addresses issues arising in the world today—from palliative care across the lifespan to obligations to treat patients with Ebola to clinician-patient communication.

Berman Institute faculty members also conduct collaborative empirical research on ethical issues related to clinical practice. The following is a selection of some of the areas of active empirical research:

  • Ensuring respect and dignity in the intensive care unit
  • Ethical issues in everyday clinical practice
  • Palliative and end of life care
  • Transplantation
  • Ethics in accountable care organizations
  • Spirituality and religious beliefs
  • Treatment of patients with sickle cell disease and HIV/AIDS
  • Decision making among youth with neuromuscular diseases, sickle cell disease
  • Moral distress and clinician suffering
  • Breast cancer survivorship
  • Surrogate and shared decision-making
  • Chemotherapy drug shortages in childhood cancer
  • Ethical issues involving persons with dementia
  • Ethical issues in genetic testing
  • Ethical issues and cultural diversity
  • Clinical ethics education
Service/Policy

Berman Institute faculty members lead the Ethics Committees and Consultation Services at Johns Hopkins Hospital (JHH) and Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center (JHBMC). Our faculty also assist with these services in other Johns Hopkins Health System and Affiliate entities. They also serve in related leadership positions in key Hospital, Health System and University Committees and task forces.

Berman Institute faculty play a critical role in the Johns Hopkins Institutional Review Board (IRB) system, by serving as members of all six School of Medicine and both School of Public Health IRBs, with two faculty members in leadership positions on their respective IRBs. Faculty members also serve on key committees and initiatives in their respective Schools of Nursing, Medicine, and Public Health as well as national and international leadership in organizations and initiatives addressing key areas of clinical ethics.

Berman Institute faculty members are involved with national policy initiatives regarding clinical ethics. These include developing standards for clinical ethics consultation, standards for education and training in professionalism, and ethical practice for nurses.

Nursing Ethics for the 21st Century: Report of the National Nursing Summit
Report of the summit meeting on Nursing Ethics for the 21st Century, seeking to change the nation’s health care culture so that it more strongly supports basic ethics principles and more effectively enables nurses to practice more ethically.
Vision of Hope
Palliative care is traditionally focused on care for the terminally ill. Through Vision of Hope, scholars at the Berman Institute are aiming to change that by bringing the principles and comfort of palliative care to pediatric patients suffering from chronic illness.
JHU Exploration of Practical Ethics
The JHU Exploration of Practical Ethics Program aims to stimulate innovative work in practical ethics - an interdisciplinary field of study that takes on ethical issues arising in professions and scholarly disciplines, within institutions and society.
PREVENT (Pregnancy Research Ethics for Vaccines, Epidemics, and New Technologies)
Equitably including the interests of pregnant women and their offspring in vaccine research and development
Prof. Unguru Decries Drug Shortages
Berman faculty member urges FDA to uphold basic human right of access to essential medicines
Berman Institute Announces 2018-19 Seminar Series
Free and open to the public, lunchtime lecture series hosts top national experts in bioethics
Prof. Rushton Named to National Committee
National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine to study clinician burnout
Ethics for Lunch Discusses Decision-Making Capacity and Mental Illness
The monthly Ethics for Lunch discussion used a case in which a young man with a complex history of mental illness is refusing treatment for a blood infection as the basis for a broader discussion of decision-making capacity and mental illness.