Philosophy department offers new bioethics certificate program


Brooke Williams, News Editor

Marywood students will have the option to earn a 14-credit certificate in bioethics through the philosophy department starting next semester.

According to Assistant Professor of Philosophy Dr. Aaron Simmons, bioethics is the study of ethical questions that arise in medical fields, technology and research.

Simmons said some examples of topics discussed in courses concerning bioethics include physician-assisted suicide, making medical decisions for incompetent patients, patient autonomy and the use of human embryos in medical research.

The certificate program, which differs from a minor program, will not only be available to currently registered Marywood students, but anyone in the community, state or nation, Simmons said. The required courses, some of which Marywood already offers, will be conducted on campus and online.

Dr. Philip Jenkins, chair of the philosophy department, said earning the bioethics certificate could benefit people in healthcare-related majors and professions.

“It’s more geared toward teaching skills [for] people in the healthcare fields, especially ones who may want to go on to be leaders in their fields and be on ethics committees, skills that they’re going to want to make them better ethical decision makers [and] make them ethically literate,” Jenkins said.

Students must take Introduction to Philosophy, which already serves as a core curriculum requirement, and Bioethics, which could satisfy the philosophy elective requirement in the core curriculum.

Additionally, participants in the program can choose two three-credit electives from the following: Ethics, Science and Biotechnology; Healthcare and Social Justice; Philosophy of Mental Health; and Special Topics in Bioethics.

A two-credit capstone study in bioethics is also required to complete the certificate, which students can do either after they finish the four courses or during their fourth course, Simmons said.

The capstone, similar to an independent study, will require students to work one-on-one with a faculty member from the philosophy department on a research topic concerning bioethics.

According to Jenkins, the online option offers flexibility for participants of all different circumstances, especially those in healthcare-related majors and professions.

“The healthcare majors, we absolutely know, have very strict requirements,” Jenkins said.

“[They] have a very high number of courses that they have to take, so they have little room for extra courses. There’s really three courses beyond the two-course [philosophy requirement] minimum that they have to take [to earn the certificate].”

Simmons said taking these philosophy courses to earn the certificate may also give students necessary skills for furthering their education after completing their undergraduate degrees.

“A lot of the graduate exams… require critical thinking, analytic skills, reasoning abilities, and that’s something they’re going to gain from taking these courses,” Simmons said.

“There are a lot of studies that show how well students who have studied philosophy excel on these graduate exams, so we’re hoping to benefit students in their future careers and academic futures.”

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