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Bioethics, Human Rights, and Global Health

Course Status

2nd Term
Berman Institute (Bioethics)
Academic Year
2023 - 2024
Instruction Method
Synchronous Online
Class Time(s)
Friday, 1:30 - 4:20pm
Auditors Allowed
Available to Undergraduate
Grading Restriction
Letter Grade or Pass/Fail
Course Instructor(s)
Contact Name
Frequency Schedule
Every Year


Social inequity, discrimination and power imbalances have a profound impact on health. Bioethics and human rights offer conceptual and pragmatic tools for addressing these problems, though they differ in their foundations and approaches. This course will provide students an understanding of the potential and limitations of these approaches to ameliorating these injustices.
Explores the theoretical justifications of human rights and their relationship to the contemporary human rights movement based in positive law and how human rights are operationalized. Reviews theories of human rights, evolution of human rights as law, and common ground and tensions between bioethics and legal approaches to human rights. Illustrates how bioethics and human rights concepts apply to key public health issues of our time, particularly as they relate to problems of inequality and inequity. Discuss issues including access to essential medicines, women’s health, disease surveillance and response to pandemics, and health claims of immigrants, refugees and prisoners.
Learning Objectives
Upon successfully completing this course, students will be able to:
  1. Describe theoretical/conceptual foundations for the human right to health, including the basis for human rights in positive law
  2. Illustrate how different theoretical/conceptual foundations affect the content of the right to health, including in “human rights-based programming” for health
  3. Appraise challenges to the existence of a right to health
  4. Compare and contrast basic bioethical principles used in public health with human rights-based principles
  5. Apply human rights concepts to contemporary public health problems
Methods of Assessment
This course is evaluated as follows:
  • 10% Participation
  • 20% Written Assignment(s)
  • 10% Quizzes
  • 60% Short papers
Enrollment Restriction
Enrollment priority given to MBE and Bioethics Certificate students
Special Comments

This is the virtual/online section of a course also held onsite. You are responsible for the modality in which you register.