2020 Summer Seminars (pre-Covid)

Covid-19 Update

Due to Covid-19, we are unable to offer our in-person program; instead we will offer an online program. Please see this link for the list of seminars which will be offered in our 2020 online program: https://bioethics.yale.edu/2020-revised-summer-seminars-0 . 

Seminar Leaders

Learn about our seminar leaders on our Primary Team and Summer Faculty pages and by watching brief video discussions on our Youtube channel.   


Each summer, we offer over 20 seminars across 8 time slots (4 time slots in June and another 4 in July), and students are able to request up to 8 seminars.  Before Covid-19, we planned the following schedule at this link.  

2020 Seminar Descriptions (pre-Covid List)

Ethics of Climate Change

In this seminar we will examine a number of ethics questions raised by climate change and crises it will cause in global health, population displacement, mass extinction and severe weather. Who is responsible for climate change, and who is responsible for mitigating it—states? firms? individuals? What are our environmental obligations to future generations? Is geo-engineering a permissible option in combatting climate change? bio-engineering? de-extinction of species? Is there an environmental duty not to have children? Is climate-change a feminist issue? Readings will be from contemporary ethicists; no ethics background is assumed or required.  Stephen Latham, the Center Director, will lead this seminar.

Ethics of Enhancement

This seminar will provide a firm and wide-ranging grounding in ethical issues associated with human enhancement. We will cover the history of enhancement theory and discourse; we will learn about key theorists in the field and the views that they advance in favour of or against enhancement; and we will consider ethical dilemmas in applied areas including: cognitive enhancement; moral enhancement; sports enhancement; enhancement in literature, film, and myth; genetic enhancement and disease prevention; and enhancement in public health and health policy. We will have in-depth discussions about relevant case studies across these found in contemporary and historical medical practice, the media and wider society, and the bioethical literature. This seminar will be led by Brian Earp.

Clinical Ethics

Graduate and undergraduate medical education programs spend years imparting the clinical skills understood as the current “standard of care,” but patients do not always respond well to these standards. Due to the increasing body of clinical knowledge, many medical education programs struggle to provide time and space for ethical reflection on whether the current standard of care is good, just, or respectful. The purpose of this course is to provide an introduction to core ethical questions and common dilemmas inherent in medical care. Brief readings, guided reflection, interactive case studies, and group discussion will be a part of this course. No prior experience in clinical ethics is expected or required – genuine curiosity is highly encouraged. This seminar will be led by Jennifer Herbst.

Bioethics and Storytelling in Art and Media

Bioethics has had an extensive relationship with media and literature since its conception. What that relationship has evolved into was a method for nursing the voices of those who would not call themselves bioethicists but found themselves in the heat of the discipline for various reasons. This course seeks to highlight this idea – finding bioethics in familiar, yet usual spaces. Material will be taken from authors such as Toni Morrison and Danielle Ofri and visual artists such as Solange and Beyonce to explore themes of rationing, moral relativism, death, and life. Materials will also range from traditional bioethical articles and literature to media that will serve to frame classroom discussions. This course’s ultimate goal is to teach students how to meaningfully engage with the creative aspects of bioethics, teach students how to glean bioethical themes from literature and media, and help students become adept in translating the experiences of nontraditional bioethical voices into relevant bioethical languages. This seminar will be led by Nia Johnson.

Data, Health, and Ethics: Topics at the Intersection

This seminar is an ethical investigation of the use of large volumes of data in health research and medical practice. Large volumes of data require automated analysis, which typically involves artificial intelligence (AI), specifically machine learning (ML). Our approach in this seminar will be to identify and map the various ways that new data-driven techniques such as ML raise moral questions from the standpoints of various stakeholders in the health domain. Central questions will be about the relationship between an individual patient’s medical data and the data of larger populations in which patterns and insights emerge. As we pursue these questions, we will be concerned with some well-established themes in data ethics and medical ethics, including privacy, consent, property, and fairness. We will also uncover and articulate less familiar nexuses of concern. This seminar will be led by Owen King.

Ethical Issues in Global Health

An ever-widening gap yawns between those within reach and deprived of medical access throughout the world. Vast populations who subsist in dire need find themselves recipients of foreign aid “donated” by those with frequently competing interests. The legacy of colonialism lingers: the potential for enormous profit from industry and research, as well as geopolitical influence loom behind the scenes. Profound socio-economic and cultural differences frequently threaten to complicate communication between donors and recipients; corruption and profiteering often undermine the most sincere efforts.

Welcome to the front lines of global health, explored with a surgeon who has spent decades working in the field. Key ethical issues in public health, health research, clinical care, and health organization/systems will be surveyed, and the complex dynamics of attempted healthcare delivery in the developing world will be discussed in this seminar. This seminar will be led by Dr. Aron Rose.

Public Health Ethics

Ensuring the health and well-being of a population is a fundamental goal of public health. While state and local governments have expansive powers meant to preserve and protect the public’s health, actions taken in order to protect health and well-being may conflict with the rights and freedoms of individuals. Thus, a central question in public health ethics involves the balances of public good and personal liberty. This seminar will introduce students to ethics in public health. The course will cover the history and general principles of public health ethics, the notion of social justice as a core element, and the social determinants of health and will primarily explore these concepts through the lens of the COVID-9 outbreak, including vaccination, quarantine and isolation. This seminar will be taught by Dr. Zohar Lederman.

Ethical Issues in Obstetrics & Pediatrics: Cross Cultural Perspectives

This seminar will explore a variety of ethical issues that arise when becoming pregnant and leading up to childhood: beginning with pre-implantation diagnosis and screening, embryo disposition, then prenatal diagnosis and genetic counseling in early pregnancy, abortion (also including access by minors to abortion and birth control), treatment of premature babies, explaining illness to children. This course will present six cases from these respective stages and examine the cross-cultural ethical issues that arise (mainly, U.S. vs Japan). Often, patients and medical professionals are confronted with difficulty in dealing with these issues due to the wide range of circumstances, governments, policies, religions, and cultural values prevalent in that region. Through discussing these cases, students will learn to recognize and address the cultural dilemmas faced by medical professionals, patients and their families in health care settings, as well as gaining respect for the universal components of biomedical ethics.  This seminar will be taught by Dr. Takahashi.

Philosophy of Technology and Bioethics

This seminar will provide the students with the theoretical knowledge and practical skills to understand the role of technologies in our life. Technologies, broadly construed, form an inalienable part of human life. However, their increasing presence poses a variety of questions. Can Artificial Intelligence replace doctors in the healthcare practice? How do genetic tests and fitness trackers co-shape our understanding of what it means to be healthy? How do the values and norms of people change in interaction with technologies? If brining woolly mammoth back to life is possible, is it desirable? To answer these and other questions, the students will learn to identify the impact of specific technologies on human practices, as well as critically approach the normative dimension of technologies. The students will learn that rather than being a neutral object or a deterministic force, technologies always mediate the relations between people and the world, co-shaping us as much as we are designing them. The seminar ultimately argues for an informed perspective towards technologies and equips the students with a combination of theoretical and practical skills to maintain it. To mirror this goal, the seminar will integrate theory and practice, introducing the key approaches in philosophy of technology and teaching the students to apply them to contemporary case studies, inviting to wear the hats of technology users, non-users, designers and policy-makers. The seminar will be of interest to anyone who wants to maintain a reflective and critical stance towards technologies in our life. It does not require any background knowledge of ethics, philosophy or engineering.  This seminar will be led by Olya Kudina.

Health Policy Analysis for Bioethicists

Across the globe, bioethics education is still rather scarce.   Those who do have bioethics education are recognized as having specialized knowledge, and therefore are increasingly invited to participate on policy committees. These committees may be at the institutional, local, state, national, or transnational level. It is a weighty responsibility to serve on these committees since health policy formulation is complex and nuanced and may impact many lives. This seminar will provide an overview of the US healthcare system, an understanding of policy formulation and modification, and an opportunity to deepen critical thinking skills.  We will discuss several institutional and national health policies including physician-assisted suicide, end-of-life decision-making for unbefriended patients, healthcare for transgender and nonconforming veterans, as well as policies influenced by international and transnational organizations. We will examine policies through bioethical analysis and will have a brief introduction to the beneficial role of policy analysis methods. This seminar is suited for participants who wish to (or currently) serve on institutional or governmental policy committees, including hospital ethics committees.  This seminar will be in the first term.  In the second term, students can choose to enroll in the 2-week Policy Lab seminar which will give students hands-on experience with policy analysis tools, including Ishikawa diagrams and logic models. This seminar will be taught by Lori Bruce.

Policy Lab

Bioethicists are increasingly called upon to participate in health policy formulation and review, however bioethicists are not trained in formal policy analysis methods.  This seminar will give students hands-on experience with policy analysis tools such as Ishikawa diagrams and logic models.  Students can choose a health policy of their own or they can choose from a range of options. This seminar aims to further develop critical analysis skills and demonstrate to students how they can become more skilled at finding gaps in health policy. This seminar will be for the first two weeks of the July term, and will only be an option for students who took Health Policy Analysis for Bioethicists in the first term, or who can demonstrate they already have this foundational knowledge.  This seminar will be taught by Lori Bruce.

Bioethics & the Law

This seminar will examine the basic treatment by American law of some major issues in contemporary biomedical ethics. Readings will include standard legal materials such as cases and regulations, a number of quasi-legal sources such as government commission reports and institutional guidelines, and some academic articles. No familiarity with legal materials is assumed; indeed, this seminar is designed for students with no background in American law. For each of the topics listed below, the instructor will offer a very broad and necessarily cursory overview of the area, and then will focus seminar discussion on one or two sub-issues to be addressed in detail. While the focus will be American law, some comparative-law readings will be supplied in order to bring possible alternative approaches to light. Topics include the basics of the US legal system; abortion; end-of-life care and aid-in-dying; assisted reproduction; mandated vaccination; state power to quarantine; and standards of determining death. This seminar will be taught by Rebecca Feinberg.

Bioethics and Psychiatry

The aim of this seminar is to explore emerging ethical issues in psychiatry through professional and personal experiences, with case study analysis and discussion of the latest developments in scientific literature and thinking in the bioethics of psychiatry.
The seminar series will look at identifying and dissecting ethical issues in psychiatric diagnosis and treatment. It will focus on issues such as gender dysphoria in adolescents and adults, personal autonomy in psychiatry and involuntary treatment, the use of legal and restricted drugs for psychiatric treatment, the bioethics of psychoanalysis, and more.
In the context of the bioethics of psychiatry, participants will develop speaking skills, an understanding of dialectic argument based on principles of bioethics, and advanced skills in critical analysis. This seminar will be taught by Santiago Peregalli.

Responsibility and Moral Conflicts

What does it mean to be a morally responsible agent? What happens to our sense of responsibility when we face conflicting interests, values, or obligations? What happens when moral theories conflict? This seminar explores the complex and problematic issues that arise at the intersection of moral responsibility and moral conflicts. Building upon the basic foundations of ethical theory, we will begin the course by examining the nature of agency and responsibility. While many historical traditions emphasize having a free will or being properly informed, recent work encourages us to focus on how we naturally respond to others and to ourselves. We will examine whether or not any of these accounts help us to evaluate – to praise or blame – agents faced with extremely difficult decisions. In medical emergencies, just like in many high-stakes political contexts, action must be taken, even when the right thing to do is far from clear. The course will analyze what it means to face a moral dilemma, when we might be required to get ‘dirty hands’ (to do wrong for the sake of a good outcome), and how we are often subjected to moral luck. Participants will be encouraged to discuss a host of perplexing case studies and to question the adequacy of some of the most widely-accepted ethical theories. This seminar will be led by Dan Tigard.

Cultural & Contextual Bias in Bioethics

Good philosophy, and thus good bioethics, begins with a curious, yet critical mind. But how do we make sure our critical views aren’t corrupted by our biases? How do we distinguish good arguments from biased ones? How can we identify different kinds of bias in other people’s viewpoints and, most importantly, in our own? 

During this seminar, we will start with an overview of some of the most widely recognised cognitive, cultural, and contextual biases that we are innately subject to. Second, we will deepen our understanding of how bias works in practice by exploring the boundaries of our own moral compasses through an extensive case study. By taking an in-depth look at a variety of surgeries on sex organs, we’ll come to understand why we think of some as inherently problematic and some as self-evidently valuable. Third, we will continue to step out of our comfort zones by analyzing some basic assumptions about the current state of the world, the environment, and cultural and socio-economic global facts. Fourth, having acquired these new insights, we’ll discuss different views on suffering and end-of-life decisions. In addition, you will get a crash course on contemporary problems of bias in medicine. Finally, you will showcase your advanced understanding of bias by presenting and defending opposing views on a controversial bioethical issue. This seminar will be taught by Mayli Mertens.

Medical Humanities (in Spanish)

This seminar is an introduction to Medical Humanities and will be taught in Spanish.  We will explore the relationship between medicine, arts, and humanities, how they are related to each other and how they may enrich the practitioner. We will observe, reflect and debate how that richness could facilitate the discussion of ethical issues and identify ethical problems through art, literature, and film. We will use clinical cases for discussions, out-of-classroom learning (such as visiting Yale’s famed Medical Historical Library), and contemplation of works of art. This seminar will be taught by Santiago Peregalli.

Ethics of Emergency Medicine

This seminar will introduce you to the ethical issues that arise in the course of work in an emergency medicine setting. Through case-based discussions, we will put you “in the shoes” of an emergency physician, to learn about and apply what we know about ethics to a unique environment - the fast paced emergency room, where quick decisions have lasting implications. This seminar will be taught by Dr. Evie Marcolini.


This seminar will introduce you to some of the issues in the area of neuroscience that have ethical implications. We will, as much as possible, study through cases and interactive classroom discussion. We hope to have a session dedicated to the Cushing Center, and tour the historic collection of human brains, and have a discussion of the ethical issues around human bodies in a museum setting.  This seminar will be co-taught by Drs. Evie Marcolini, Karmele Olaciregui, and Ben Tolchin.

Bioethics on Four Legs … or Six or Eight:  Animal Ethics through a One Health perspective​

Emerging infectious diseases and other international health concerns, biomedical research, agriculture, and the environmental crisis impact humans, non-human animals and ecosystems across the globe.  These urgent concerns call for interdisciplinary collaboration and a One Health   approach to these challenges. In 2009, the Center for Disease Control established  its One Health office, defining One Health as “a collaborative, multisectoral, and transdisciplinary approach—working at the local, regional, national, and global levels—with the goal of achieving optimal health outcomes recognizing the interconnection between people, animals, plants, and their shared environment.” This seminar explores nonhuman animal issues from a One Health framework of human, non-human animal, and ecosystem health.  Beginning from the One Health model  and its relevance for today’s world, sessions will include an introduction to theories of animal ethics and public perceptions of animal well-being, agricultural animal demand and consumption, One Health animal related work in biomedical research and biotechnology, and ethics of wildlife management and conservation.  Topic overviews will be presented during each class, followed by dialogue around related readings. This seminar is designed for students of varied disciplines interested in an overview of animal issues in bioethical discourse. Prior background in animal related studies not required. This seminar will be led by Sue Kopp.

Disability, Illness, & Difference

This seminar will explore disability as a social category of difference through engagement with disability studies and disability rights critiques of healthcare and medical intervention. This will help contextualize contemporary bioethical debates about disability. Some see disability as a condition to be cured; others view it as a social category and a valuable difference that should be preserved. We will look at different types of disability and their specific cases in bioethics such as Deaf culture and cochlear implants, prenatal testing, physician assisted death, and more. The class will provide an introduction to the fundamental assertions of disability studies, investigating how these are often seen in conflict with the field of bioethics and examining some of the sociopolitical aspects of specific conditions. We will have group discussions, brief readings, and film viewings, as well as possibly a few guest speakers. Students need not have any familiarity with disability (in fact, you are especially encouraged to take this seminar if that is the case!) and are encouraged to be interactive and curious. This seminar will be led by Laura Mauldin.

Research Ethics

This seminar will cover the principles of research ethics, looking at historical examples of ethical violations and how these led to the development of human and animal research ethics committees.  Best practices in research ethics will be explored. This seminar will be led by Zohar Lederman.

Last-minute changes are always possible based on unexpected faculty member illness or other such emergency, but there are always plenty of seminars to ensure a robust and enlightening summer experience.