Concentration Chair: Norman Daniels
The ethics concentration integrates quantitative, qualitative, and normative approaches to the analysis of ethical issues in health policy and clinical practice. Increasingly, the investigation of ethical issues in medicine and health policy has not only drawn on normative ethics and political philosophy, but has included empirical research concerning attitudes and practices in clinical and broader institutional settings. A grasp of normative theories and tools is important because ethical principles and approaches underlie, explicitly or implicitly, the formulation of particular health policies at both the macro and micro level. Students in this track will focus on developing skills in a range of disciplines, with the goal of evaluating how ethical and socio-cultural values shape – and should shape – health policies as well as clinical and public health practices. Students with a strong background in ethics and political philosophy will have a chance to deepen that understanding and apply it to issues in health policy, while at the same time acquiring necessary quantitative skills. Students with degrees or training in related fields, such as law or medicine or public health, will acquire both normative and quantitative skills needed for research and teaching in ethics and health policy.
Research in health policy and ethics would include such topics as:
- policies for the allocation of scarce resources to individuals (e.g., human organs for transplantation, newly developed drugs, hospital beds) and across categories of patients (treatment vs prevention for HIV/AIDS, or for HIV/AIDS vs malaria)
- policies for care at the beginning and end of life
- evaluation of informed consent protocols and their effectiveness
- issues of equity in the evaluation of policies determining access to health services and the reduction of risk factors
- policies responding to cross-cultural variation in ethical norms
- ways in which health professionals are educated
- policies regarding the balance between the individual and the collective (e.g., in bio-terrorism, epidemic control, etc.).
While not abandoning the concerns of traditional work in bioethics, the program aims to produce students who are interested in the ethics of population health. Accordingly, all students in this track will develop core skills for the conduct of both normative analysis and empirical research in ethics.