INTD 4018: Independent Ethics Elective

Course Director

Jason Morrow, M.D., PhD


Ethics asks the fundamental questions of what it is to be a professional and what is proper conduct and decision making in practice. It investigates the difficult questions which challenge professionals as well as those issues which society is debating.

In this longitudinal course, students will undertake an independent study into a specific issue in medical ethics or medical humanities. Students will be required to read on research methods in medical ethics as well as literature in their issue of interest, and then to propose and conduct an original study project, a literature review, a position paper, or an ethical analysis of a particular topic or case.

Students will be expected to write an academically rigorous final research report of 15 to 20 pages. Students will be encouraged to produce a final paper that can be submitted for publication in a peer-reviewed bioethics or medical humanities journal.

Students will meet regularly with the instructor and/or chosen faculty advisor over the course for assistance, guidance, and discussion.

Course Objectives

  • Explain methods of research and investigation in ethics
  • Analyze an ethical question or issue in depth
  • Prepare a research report, case analysis, position paper, or literature review


July: Complete reading of Methods in Medical Ethics; course meeting of all students. Choose topic, meet with project advisor. Develop reading list.

August/September: Development and approval of proposed project. Second individual meeting with faculty advisor or course instructor. Complete reading list. If necessary for data-related work, complete and submit all materials for IRB approval.

October/November: Do reading. Complete annotated bibliography and submit. If applicable, collect data.

December/January: Completed research, submit preliminary analysis of work, submit outline of final paper. Meeting with faculty advisor.

February: Submission of first completed draft of final paper; peer-review of other student papers; feedback from instructor and faculty advisor

March: Final papers are due the first week of March. In the second week will be the second and final course meeting of all students to present results of their individual projects.


Students will receive 2.0 credits for completion of this course.


Grades will be A, B or Fail. To receive a grade of B, students must make all instructor meetings, complete assigned readings, develop a work proposal, conduct a peer-review of another student’s first draft paper, and write an adequate research report of 15-20 pages. To receive a grade of A, students must do all of the above plus peer-review a second student first draft paper and write an excellent research report of 15-20 pages showing evidence of critical thinking and original thought.

Reading List

Sugarman, J & Sulmasy, DP (2001). Methods in Medical Ethics. Washington DC: Georgetown University Press.

In addition, students shall develop a reading list (of at least 10 texts), in consultation with the instructor, of articles and books relevant to the students’ topical area of study.

f you are interested in this course, please contact Iris Mast at or