New bioethics minor coming Fall 2022 semester

In the Fall 2022 semester, Oakland University will be adding a new minor for students with future careers in medicine, nursing, public health, social work, psychology or other human service fields. 

The new minor in bioethics aims to teach students “moral principles and ethical issues that are relevant to clinical medicine and population health.” 

Professor and Chair of Philosophy at OU and Lecturer in the Department of Foundational Medical Studies at OUWB Mark Navin said that the minor will focus on “real world” ethical problems through public health. 

“[The courses will address] questions about power, race, gender, authenticity, deception, patients’ rights about the role of family, culture, religion and then in the public health context — allocation of scarce resources, health inequities and social terms of health,” Navin said.

According to Navin, the courses offered in this minor will help students prepare for future ethical choices they will inevitably face. 

“It’s hard when you’ve got horrible conflict — when there’s scarce resources, conflict between patients and the families [and] when you’re in the position to have to treat patients over their objection,” Navin said. “These are the hardest kinds of cases for nurses, physicians and other health professionals to address, and students who have a background in practical ethics training, I believe, are well prepared for these [situations].” 

Visiting Assistant Professor Daniel Thiel said that this minor will encourage students to think critically about ethical issues outside of an examination room as well. 

“We want to make sure that students are aware of and engaging with the broader set of questions that come with healthcare,” Thiel said. “It’s not only about what happens in the clinic between doctors and patients — but also at a population level — how do we think about the ethical social questions?”

Both Navin and Thiel cite the COVID-19 pandemic as an example of how ethical questioning plays a massive role in healthcare. 

“We’ve all been faced with a variety of serious ethical challenges,” Thiel said. “How do we cope with the pandemic? How do we respond to it? What do we want from each other and from our government? All of those questions are the kind of thing that [students] will engage with in our new public health ethics course.” 

The new bioethics minor will also be beneficial to students looking for post-graduate careers or who are applying to medical school. 

“The bioethics minor is incredibly important for [students] not only getting into medical school — but really succeeding in the field. You face these challenges — they’re very real and very concrete,” Thiel said. “Hopefully what we’re able to do in our classes as teachers [is to] show them how real and commonplace it is to be confronting ethical challenges by giving them tools to think it through and giving them practice to articulate themselves.”

For those interested in the bioethics minor — there will be an informational meeting from noon to 1:00 p.m. on Wednesday, March 30. in the Lake Huron room in the Oakland Center. Contact [email protected] for more information.