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Bioethics, Human Rights, and Global Health

East Baltimore
2nd term
Berman Institute (Bioethics)
3 credits
Academic Year:
2021 - 2022
Instruction Method:
Class Times:
  • Friday,  1:30 - 4:20pm
Auditors Allowed:
Yes, with instructor consent
Grading Restriction:
Letter Grade or Pass/Fail
Course Instructors:
Leonard Rubenstein



Social inequity, discrimination and power imbalances have a profound impact on health. Bioethics and human rights offer conceptual and pragmatic tools for addressing these problems, though they differ in their foundations and approaches. This course will provide students an understanding of the potential and limitations of these approaches to ameliorating these injustices.

Explores the theoretical justifications of human rights and their relationship to the contemporary human rights movement based in positive law and how human rights are operationalized. Reviews theories of human rights, evolution of human rights as law, and common ground and tensions between bioethics and legal approaches to human rights. Illustrates how bioethics and human rights concepts apply to key public health issues of our time, particularly as they relate to problems of inequality and inequity. Discuss issues including access to essential medicines, women’s health, disease surveillance and response to pandemics, and health claims of immigrants, refugees and prisoners.

Learning Objectives:

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

  1. Describe theoretical/conceptual foundations for the human right to health, including the basis for human rights in positive law
  2. Illustrate how different theoretical/conceptual foundations affect the content of the right to health, including in “human rights-based programming” for health
  3. Appraise challenges to the existence of a right to health
  4. Compare and contrast basic bioethical principles used in public health with human rights-based principles
  5. Apply human rights concepts to contemporary public health problems
Methods of Assessment:

This course is evaluated as follows:

  • 10% Participation
  • 20% Written Assignment(s)
  • 10% Quizzes
  • 60% Short papers

Enrollment Restriction:

Enrollment priority given to MBE and Bioethics Certificate students

Instructor Consent:

Consent required for some students

Consent Note:

Consent required for undergraduate and Bioethics Certificate students

For consent, contact: