Law, Biomedicine and Bioethics – 6853

This course is an immersion in the fascinating cross-disciplinary domain where law, biomedicine, and bioethics meet. We will examine the history of this field, key controversies that have driven that history, the range of applicable law (state, federal, and international), the evolution of modern bioethics and its interaction with law, and the articulation of policy (from commissions, NGOs, professional societies, and others). The course will consider competing accounts of the relationship of law, biomedicine, and bioethics, as well as controversy over current issues, including end-of-life care, reproductive medicine, and managing threats to public health.

We will begin by considering the nature of bioethics and its relation to law. We will then examine the history of modern bioethics, starting with the Medical Trial at Nuremberg after World War II and responses to the Syphilis Study at Tuskegee then progressing through development of research ethics and oversight. We will proceed to analyze the evolving role of law and bioethics in governing assisted reproduction, cloning and other emerging technologies including gene editing, genetics and genomics, organ transplantation and the determination of death, termination of life-sustaining treatment and care of the dying, and physician-assisted suicide (sometimes called “medical aid in dying”) and euthanasia. We will then focus on how bioethics and law have responded to crucial issues in the COVID-19 pandemic. Finally, we will consider clinician responsibilities and vulnerabilities in domains of ongoing ethical and legal controversy. 

Graduation Requirements
Upper Division Legal Writing
Subject Area
Health Law & Bioethics *
Intellectual Property and Technology *
Public Law
Student Year
Upper Division
Grade base
A - F
Course type