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Specializing in Bioethics

We are very proud of the special degree programs in medical ethics that we have offered for more than twenty-five years.  Historically, these have been strong programs; they have been the center of our graduate program.

Today, however, bioethics is no longer a stand-alone discipline. 

  • Both business ethics and environmental ethics now play central roles in bioethics. 
  • The most important new issues in bioethics are issues of the boardroom, not issues at the bedside.  Even the bedside issues are colored by considerations of cost. 
    • New drugs are patented and then heavily marketed – both to physicians and to patients – to increase demand for them and to dry up the demand for the earlier, simpler drugs.  But they are not always affordable. 
    • Genetic therapies and genetically modified organisms are developed and patented by for-profit labs, and some may carry significant environmental risks. 
    • Some clinical researchers now have the opportunity to become very rich if their new treatments pan out, complicating the ethics of medical research. 
    • We seem to be politically unable to control health care costs by open discussion and public decision, so we ask business organizations – insurers and hospitals, for example – to make those allocation decisions for us.   For-profit health care businesses will undoubtedly be a part of any national health care plan we might adopt. 
  • We must learn to give appropriate attention to the environmental causes of diseases.  But these environmental causes cannot be adequately addressed without the active cooperation of businesses.

Because bioethics is now a more integrated discipline, we stopped admitting students to a separate degree program in medical ethics in 2006.  We continue to offer a strong program in bioethics, including graduate-level seminars on bioethics and our traditional clinical practica at both the masters and the doctoral level.   Students still have the option to do graduate work concentrating in bioethics here at UT.  But we encourage our students to expand beyond the traditional areas of medical ethics.  We will work with individual students to design the combination of bioethics, business ethics, and environmental ethics that best meets their interests and career aspirations.

Images of Ayres Hall


*Designates Lead Faculty Member in Bioethics.