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Ethics of Healthcare Decision-Making: Theory and Practice

East Baltimore
2nd term
Berman Institute (Bioethics)
3 credits
Academic Year:
2015 - 2016
Instruction Method:
Class Times:
  • Tuesday,  3:00 - 5:50pm
Auditors Allowed:
Yes, with instructor consent
Grading Restriction:
Letter Grade or Pass/Fail
Course Instructor:
Zack Berger

Decision making is often placed at the center of the health care experience. What role do ethics play in decision making? What is a decision, and what ethical frameworks can be used to understand it? How can we improve (in light of given ethical frameworks) the experience, outcomes, and setting of decision making in the healthcare setting?

This course will provide you with new ways to think about these issues, starting you on a path to remedy -- in a practical way -- some difficulties faced by everyone regarding decision making in our system.

Acquaints students with the ethical dimensions of healthcare decision-making by individuals, including shared decision-making in patient-provider encounters; decision-making in the context of incomplete information, patient disadvantage, distress or conflict; the understanding and approach of providers and systems to the ethical dimensions of decision-making; and relevant social and economic constraints on such decision-making. Explores topics in multiple settings, populations and health conditions, with the goal of making learners aware of the ethical implications of healthcare decisions, both in everyday practice and from a policy perspective.

Learning Objectives:

Upon successfully completing this course, students will be able to:

  1. Identify ways in which various ethical frameworks apply to instances of individual health care decision-making
  2. Explain selected social, cultural, and economic constraints on individual healthcare decision-making
  3. Analyze examples of common healthcare decision-making from an ethical perspective
  4. Critique the approaches taken by providers and institutions to ethical problems relevant to healthcare decision-making
  5. Propose ways in which the context, options, or setting of healthcare decision-making can be aligned with various ethical frameworks
  6. Select and begin to consider a real-world intervention to pursue in the final project and, if possible, in their future careers
Methods of Assessment:

Participation: 25%; Presentations: 25%; Quiz: 20%; Paper and Project Proposal: 30%

Enrollment Restriction:

Enrollment priority given to Master of Bioethics students

Instructor Consent:

Consent required for some students

Consent Note:

Consent required for non-Bioethics students

For consent, contact: