Undergraduate Course Offerings

Courses for Undergraduates

These course are available to Undergraduates to take either as electives, to fuflill general education requirements, or towards the Bioethics and Medical Humanities minor.

Questions can be directed to Undergrad Program Director, Dr. Erin Lamb elg36@case.edu

This survey course is designed to give students a broad overview of medical humanities and medical social sciences. Students will engage materials from a wide range of disciplines and learn how to analyze which perspectives afford and obscure which types of knowledge relevant to health, illness and clinical practice.

We have the genetic technology to change nature and human nature, but should we? We have the medical technology to extend almost any human life, but is this always good? Should we clone humans? Should we allow doctor-assisted suicide for the terminally ill? This course invites students from all academic disciplines and fields to examine current and future issues in bioethics--e.g., theory and methods in bioethics; death and dying; organ transplantation; genetics; aging and dementia; fertility and reproduction; distributive justice in health care access. The course will include guest lecturers from nationally-known Bioethics faculty. Offered as BETH 271, PHIL 271.

We all grow old (if we are so lucky!).  But who wants to be called “old”?  And how does the experience of “growing old” differ based on one’s sex or gender, sexuality, race or ethnicity, and socioeconomic or disability status? In this course, we will consider the social, cultural, scientific, medical, and personal meanings of aging, and how these meanings, as well as the embodied experience of aging in America, are influenced by multiple forms of ageism. We will interrogate the assumptions and stereotypes about age that circulate through mainstream American culture and medicine and how these shape interpersonal and institutional practices.  How might we begin to recognize, respond to, and change ageism, and thus our own inevitable experiences of aging? The course requires participation and attendance, papers, and for graduate students an additional presentation. No prerequisites required.

Bioethics is the study of ethical controversies arising at the intersection of biology, medicine, technology, politics, law, philosophy, religion, and culture. This course will discuss and analyze the issue of health in India; recognizing that health is more than the diagnosis and treatment of a disease. Using three diseases (HIV/AIDS, leprosy, and tuberculosis) students will explore the relationship between culture and health care outcomes. Relevant issues addressed in the course include the history of British rule in India, Hinduism, the Caste system, poverty, access to education and public policy. Faculty will introduce readings on the history of India, medical anthropology, religion and the law. Students will then be given the opportunity to focus on a particular topic, research the existing literature, present their findings to the class and create a plan to observe the chosen topic while in India during the Summer semester. Course instructors include Nicole Deming, JD, MA Assistant Professor of Bioethics; Deepak Sarma, Ph.D., Associate Professor of South Asian Religions; and Gopal Yadavalli, MD Assistant Professor of Medicine and Chief of the Infectious Diseases Clinic at the Cleveland VA Medical Center. The course will also invite guest lectures from many different departments and schools to share their expertise and experience in the areas of Global Justice, Anthropology, and Human Rights.

Despite death’s inevitability, we consciously and unconsciously disguise or resist its reality in dreams, fairy tales, allegories, and even jokes. In his book, How We Die: Reflections on Life’s Final Chapter, Sherwin Nuland describes how we have turned increasingly to modern medicine as one more means of denying the reality of death.  As a surgeon with more than forty years of experience in a major metropolitan hospital, Nuland admits to actively participating in this denial.  Modern medicine, he argues, influences how we as individuals and as a culture not only view but also experience death.  “Modern dying,” he contends, “takes place in the modern hospital, where it can be hidden, cleansed of its organic blight, and finally packaged for modern burial.”  This course uses literature, history, and personal and critical accounts related to death as points of reference for examining the role modern medicine has come to play in how we die. The course requires papers, exams, participation, and attendance. For graduate students, there are additional paper and presentation requirements. No prerequisites required.

“Disability” refers to health conditions that fundamentally alter how someone engages in the world around them, including physical, psychological, and developmental illnesses. Everyone will experience disability in their lives, whether temporary or chronic, making it especially important to consider how disability shapes, and is shaped by, society at large. In this course, students will learn about the multifaceted relationships between disability and society, including the impact of ethical, cultural, political, and technological factors on the wellbeing of people with disabilities. We will critically examine representations of people with disabilities in literature, the arts, and popular media in order to interrogate the assumptions and stereotypes about disability that circulate through mainstream culture and how they shape interpersonal and institutional practices. Throughout these topics, students will reflect on the intersections of race, gender, and age with disability through a multi-disciplinary lens, drawing on bioethics, anthropology, sociology, literary studies, and the arts. The course sessions will blend lecture and discussion, and assessments will include written responses and exams.

This course will provide both an introduction to basic Hinduism and Jainism and an introduction to Hindu and Jain bioethics. We will ask: How would a Hindu or a Jain respond to issues concerning euthanasia, abortion, and other topics of controversy. Are these answers altered in the North American context or in the light of recent technological changes? Offered as RLGN 353, RLGN 453, BETH 353, and BETH 453. Counts for CAS Global & Cultural Diversity Requirement.

This course examines the complex ethical and other value relationships that exist between science and society. Students will be encouraged to question the simplistic view that science proceeds independently of societal values and contentious ethical commitments. A range of other social factors, such as ethical belief systems, political forces, and large-scale financial interests all influence new scientific and technological developments. In order to illuminate each of these larger themes, this course focuses on three exciting areas of scientific inquiry: stem cell research; synthetic biology; and nanotechnology. Each of these contentious scientific fields provides an excellent view into the challenging ethical, cultural, social, political, and economic issues that will face students, both as scholars and as citizens. No prior technical knowledge is necessary for any of these scientific areas. All relevant scientific information will be provided during the course by the professor. Offered as BETH 360, BETH 460 and PHIL 360.

This course offers upper-level instruction on many key bioethical issues introduced in BETH/PHIL 271. The class follows a discussion-intensive seminar format. Students begin with an in-depth analysis of ethical issues surrounding the conduct of clinical trials, both within the U.S. and through U.S.-sponsored research abroad. Next students examine the philosophical and practical challenges involved in medical decision making for adults and pediatric patients. This course concludes by addressing the broader ethical problem of what duties we owe to future generations in terms of our reproductive choices and the allocation of health-related public expenditures. Each of these general topic areas - clinical trials, medical decision making, and future generations - is of crucial importance for all students whether one plans to enter a career in biomedical research, the healthcare professions, or some other career path. Everyone is a potential patient or the family member of a potential patient. The topics covered in Advanced Bioethics will help prepare students to become responsible participants in an increasingly complex biomedical world. Offered as BETH 371 and PHIL 371. Prereq: BETH 271 or PHIL 271.

This course is a one credit class intended to supplement BETH 371: Advanced Bioethics. In this course, students will become familiar with the clinical, psychological, social, professional, and institutional context in which bioethical problems arise. Students are exposed to clinical cases as they arise, to hospital ethics committees and ethics consultation programs, to institutional review boards (IRB), and to hospital policies covering "do not resuscitate" orders (DNR), advance directives, withdrawal of artificial feeding, and medical futility. The clinical rotation will consist of 20 hours of supervised observation where students attend structured clinical activities such as ICU rounds, case conferences as well as shadow clinicians that work with the Department of Bioethics and are used to having students at various levels of observers. The purpose of the clinical rotation will be to give students first-hand observational experience in the health care system and how the key bioethical issues discussed in BETH 371 manifest in the clinical setting. The primary locations for this course are MetroHealth Medical Center and Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center. Prereq: BETH 271 or PHIL 271.

Bioethics Study Abroad Courses

These course are available to Undergraduates to take either as electives, to fulfill general education requirements, or towards the Bioethics and Medical Humanities minor. Please note these are study abroad courses, which require additional permission to sign up and register. Not all courses are offered every year. 

Questions can be directed to Bioethics Study Abroad Director, Dr. Leah Jeunnette at lsj11@case.edu.

Taught by CWRU and international faculty, this course will include 7-10 days of intensive didactic and experiential learning in one of several "host" countries. Examples of sites include Free University of Amsterdam and University of Utrecht in the Netherlands; the University of Paris in France; and Ben Gurion University in Israel. It will afford a unique opportunity to gain perspective on important bioethics issues in different societies, i.e., euthanasia, public health policies, access to healthcare, and stem cell research. At the international site, students will spend 6 hours per day (5 days) in a seminar (involving didactics, discussion, and guided-observation clinical experience). There will be two 3-hour preparatory sessions, required reading, and two 3-hour post-trip sessions. Requirements: preparation, attendance, and class participation, a 12-15 page paper (undergraduate credit) and a 15-20 page paper (graduate credit). Graduate credit will also require students to prepare a presentation for a post-intensive session. Enrollment will be capped at 25. This course has an additional fee to cover costs of travel and lodging. Limited scholarships are available. Offered as BETH 315 and BETH 415.

This 3-credit course allows students to familiarize themselves with social policies and practices related to women's health in the United States and the Netherlands. Issues covered in the course include birth control and family planning, abortion, prenatal testing, childbirth, health care disparities, cosmetic surgery, prostitution and trafficking in women. This course also addresses the US and Dutch national policies regarding the public provision of health care for women. The course places an emphasis on the ways in which social norms shape policies over time, which political actors are involved in shaping women's health policy, and the balance between women's health as a matter of the public good or individual responsibility. This course substantively explores gender-specific cultural values and practices in relation to women's health in the United States and the Netherlands and will help students develop the analytical skills necessary for evaluating social policy and ethical issues related to women's health. Offered as BETH 315A and BETH 415A. Counts for CAS Global & Cultural Diversity Requirement.

This 3-credit course gives students the unique opportunity to observe patients and practitioners encounter in a radically different health care system. Costa Rica has one of the most comprehensive health care systems in the Western hemisphere, featuring the innovative use of mid-level health care workers organized in basic comprehensive health care teams. This has resulted in a longer life expectancy than the United States, despite a per capita GDP of only $10,000 per person. Students will gain first-hand experience of Costa Rican health care through field experiences at sites including a national hospital in the capital city, San Jose; a peripheral treatment clinic in a smaller town; and observation of the work of an integrated basic health care team in an indigenous reserve. Following each visit, students will discuss the practical and ethical dilemmas that practitioners face in the context of the Costa Rican health care system. Specific topics include health inequalities within and between nations; the ethics of transplantation, medical research, and end-of-life care; and health care in rural environments and with indigenous populations. Offered as BETH 315C and BETH 415C. Counts for CAS Global & Cultural Diversity Requirement.

This 3-credit course is a collaboration between Case Western Reserve University and the University of Paris. The course includes a ten-day trip to Paris, France over Spring Break. This course offers a cross-cultural comparison of the French and American medical systems. Students will have the unique opportunity to learn first-hand how the French medical education system is structured and how the social, cultural and political contexts in France shape medical and ethical issues. The trip includes guided field experiences in French clinical settings as well as opportunities to engage with French faculty members and physicians about contemporary issues in bioethics. Ethical issues that may be considered may include reproductive rights, decision-making involving severely impaired newborns, withholding/withdrawing life-sustaining treatment and issues in organ donation and transplant. The course also will also emphasize the role of French culture and history while in Paris with museum and site visits designed to complement seminar content and offer real-life illustrations of course content. Prior to the trip, students attend six hours of lectures, either at Case Western Reserve University or via a web-based tutorial. They are expected to become familiar with the representative articles assigned for the course and be prepared to integrate those readings into pre-trip class participation and active participation while in France. Following the trip, students meet with the instructor for an additional four hours to discuss and synthesize their experiences. Offered as BETH 315D and BETH 415D. Counts for CAS Global & Cultural Diversity Requirement.

This 3-credit intensive course will be held in San Sebastian, Spain. Taught by faculty from CWRU and University of the Basque Country, this course offers students a cross-cultural perspective on bioethics in the United States and Spain. This course uses the medium of film, complemented by readings in bioethics, film criticism, and medical research, to introduce students to a number of compelling bioethics problems facing physician-scientists today, including: when life begins, the nature and limits of informed consent, use of randomization without equipoise, medical imperialism (or the appearance thereof), the treatment of so-called "orphan" diseases, use of deception in research, and financial conflicts of interests caused by among other things, the involvement of the pharmaceutical industry in the drug invention process. Offered as BETH 315Fand BETH 415F. Counts for CAS Global & Cultural Diversity Requirement.

Is it ever permissible for physicians to kill their patients? In the Netherlands, the answer is yes. In the United States, it is no. Are the Dutch sliding down a moral slippery slope? Are the Americans compromising the rights and dignity of dying patients? This 3-credit course is a unique opportunity to examine a range of Dutch and American end-of-life policies and practices with special focus on the unique ethical, cultural, religious, and legal contexts in which they developed. This course will compare how two liberal democracies, the United States and the Netherlands, have handled difficult end-of-life issues, including The Dutch regulation of euthanasia; Regulation of physician-assisted suicide in the state of Oregon; Terminal sedation; End-of-life decisions in newborns; Withholding and withdrawing of artificially-provided fluids and nutrition; The legal basis for end-of-life decision making in the USA; Palliative care and hospice; Public trust in medicine and physicians. In the United States, teaching methods will include lectures, case discussion, and exposure to how some of the course's themes are reflected in popular culture such as movies. Offered as BETH 315G and BETH 415G. Counts for CAS Global & Cultural Diversity Requirement.