What you can learn about bioethics and the law

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The Center for Practical Bioethics defines bioethics as the application of moral principles in relation to medicine and health care. This concept combines various disciplines, such as philosophy, theology, history, law, medicine, nursing, health policy and medical humanities with life, science and technology.

The field of bioethics has changed vastly since its inception. In 1971 when the term was first used, it underlined the combination of biology, bioscience and humanistic knowledge. Today, bioethics cover a broader spectrum of concerns, including stem cell research, public policy in health care and more.


Nurse filling syringe


The job outlook for medical scientists is expected to grow 13% from 2016 to 2026, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, meaning there’s an increased need for those willing to contribute to the development of treatment, medicine and concepts behind bioethics. As such, those interested in pursuing this career path should consider a collegiate experience in one of the Health Law and Policy programs at Hofstra Law.


Taking ‘Bioethics and the Law’ with The Maurice A. Deane School of Law at Hofstra University

The coursework within the online Master of Laws or Master of Arts in Health Law and Policy is designed to help students examine state and federal laws through a health care lens. Because the changing health care landscape will only continue to make bioethics a more prevalent topic of interest, it’s vital to have a firm grasp on the subject. Therefore, Hofstra Law has dedicated an entire course to the idea.

“Bioethics and the Law,” a three-credit hour class, explores the present-day problems that involve medicine, ethics and the law. Throughout the course, students will examine the rights of patients based on the responsibilities of health care providers. Some of the key concepts addressed in this class include, but are not limited to:

  • Medical treatment
  • Death and dying
  • Abortion
  • New reproductive technologies
  • Genetics
  • Human subjects research
  • Organ transplants

The course is taught by Professor Janet Dolgin, the director of the Gitenstein Institute for Health Law and Policy and the co-director of the Hofstra Bioethics Center. She is also well known for her research, as many of her articles have been published in various law reviews, scholarly journals and edited volumes. Her works involved responses to shift in the family, legal parameters of bioethics dilemmas and the ever-changing health care industry.  Students are encouraged to turn to Professor Dolgin as a valuable resource throughout the scope of their educational journey at Hofstra Law.

Real-world trends and key concepts

Today, there are dozens of concepts that question the general principles for guiding bioethical decisions. Those standards include respect for autonomy, the principle of nonmaleficence – which involves finding the best possible outcome in the least harm-inflicting manner – the principle of beneficence and the principle of justice, according to the National Bioethics Advisory Commission. These precepts were designed to address common bioethical issues, such as the following, according to The Hastings Center, the world’s first bioethical research institute:

End-of-life care: Death and the way the process is handled in general have always been a concept questioned from an ethical perspective. “Death: ‘The Distinguished Thing'” by Daniel Callahan, one of the founders of The Hastings Center, discusses the relationship between caring for someone who’s passing by examining how the concepts of life and death intersect. Bioethics come into play when analyzing end-of-life decision-making for someone else, such as which treatments to continue or cease when patients can no longer make their own decisions.

Medical error: According to The Hastings Center, nearly 98,000 patients die every year from medical errors in the U.S. Bioethics dives into the issue behind hospitals and insurers that recognize medical harm that should never happen and refuse to pay for costs when these “never” events occur. Making an effort to compensate victims and families of medical error through policy changes can be the solution to this ethical issue.

Donating organs: More than 100,000 individuals are currently on a wait list for organ transplants, according to The Hastings Center. Unfortunately, 22 people on this waiting list die each day due to organ availability. Increasing the supply of donor organs is essential, but this is tricky from an ethical perspective: Should we legalize the buying and selling of organs? Should we assume all people who die are willing to donate their organs unless they clearly state otherwise? These questions among many others involve various ethical and legal issues.

Artificial intelligence and tech in health care: As technology continues to transform, it will inevitably proceed to make its way into the everyday lives of physicians and patients. The benefits that come with electronic medical records and other digital devices in health care settings are immense, but this concept also raises various ethical concerns. Privacy, accountability, transparency, biases and safety are among the questionable consequences that come with trusting artificial intelligence to care for humans.

Other common bioethical issues to discuss include LGBTQ people and medicine, genetics, genealogy, race, disability rights, enhancing human traits, reproductive technology and more.

Study bioethics with Hofstra Law today

If you’re interested in learning more about bioethics and how it relates to a career in health law, consider enrolling in the online Master of Laws or online Master of Arts in Health Law and Policy program from Hofstra Law. Regardless of your chosen program, you can gain knowledge and skills in topics like ethics, public policy and health care compliance.

Learn more about how you can advance your career and earn an online Master’s in Health Law and Policy. For more information, visit our site and contact an enrollment advisor today.


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Hofstra Law Health Law and Policy Programs

Hofstra Law Bioethics Center

Hofstra Law Bioethics Certificate

Bioethics key concepts research

The Hastings Center End of Life Care

The Hastings Center Medical Error

The Hastings Center Organ Transplantation

The Hastings Center Artificial Intelligence

JStor Bioethics key concepts

NY Times Bioethics in Action

Bioethics considerations

What is bioethics

BLS Medical Scientists