Bioethics Blogs

Bioethics in Action: Bringing Bioethics Deliberation into the Classroom

This is the first post in our “Bioethics in Action” series of blogs. Check back here for more posts in this series.

As the Bioethics Commission continues its work on deliberation and education, we wanted to highlight an approach situated at the intersection of deliberation and bioethics education. Dr. Rachel Fink, a developmental biologist and professor of biological sciences at Mount Holyoke College, has worked hard and thought creatively about how best to incorporate the ethical and policy dimensions of pressing scientific issues into her basic science courses.

Dr. Fink’s interest in incorporating these ethical and policy dimensions was first piqued when headlines reported the cloning of “Dolly the Sheep.” As Dr. Fink stated, “I ran into class with the headline from that New York Times saying ‘This is one of the most exciting things! Let’s talk about it.’” Over time, Dr. Fink’s approach to incorporating bioethical issues into classroom discussions grew more systematic.

As detailed in an article published in Cell Biology Education, over the course of a semester, Dr. Fink leads a group of seniors in studying the ethical and policy implications of a particularly challenging scientific issue. Past topics have ranged from cloning to embryonic stem cells—in other words, the issues that, as Dr. Fink notes, “bring up conflicts in all thoughtful members of our society.” Dr. Fink has each student in her upper-level course take on the persona of a national or international figure involved in considerations of the particular issue. At the end of the semester, the upper-level students stage a mock deliberation for introductory biology students, presenting a wide range of perspectives on the issue under consideration.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.