Bioethics Blogs

New Educational Module from the Bioethics Commission on Research Design in Ethics and Ebola

The Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues (Bioethics Commission) has released a new educational module on research design in the context of a public health emergency. The module integrates material from the Bioethics Commission’s report Ethics and Ebola: Public Health Planning and Response (Ethics and Ebola).

This module serves as a guide for instructors to help students understand key ethical challenges that might arise when conducting clinical research during public health emergencies. The module identifies ethical considerations of various approaches to clinical research during public health emergencies, including randomized controlled trials.

The Research Design in Ethics and Ebola module provides background information on randomized controlled trials and considers the differences between vaccine and treatment trials, the interpretation of what constitutes “best available” supportive care, the necessity of research to be responsive to the host and affected communities, and the importance of designing trials that yield scientifically valid results. Through discussion questions, scenarios, exercises, and illustrative and timely examples, the module guides instructors to help students reflect on ethically relevant concerns that arise in designing research during a public health emergency.

The Bioethics Commission’s topic-based educational modules are grounded in contemporary ethical questions addressed by the Commission and are designed to provide instructors with foundational information, ethical analysis, discussion questions, problem-based learning scenarios, exercises, and additional resources to support ethics education and the integration of bioethical analysis into coursework across disciplines.

All Bioethics Commission educational materials are free and available at The Bioethics Commission encourages feedback on its materials at

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.