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Clinical Ethics Practicum (PHIL-P 548)

This course is coordinated by the IUPUI Department of Philosophy, the Fairbanks Center for Medical Ethics [FCME] at Indiana University Health, and the Indiana University Center for Bioethics.

Paul Helft, MD and Peter Schwartz, MD, PhD are jointly responsible as course directors. Dr. Helft is primarily responsible for coordinating the activities of the practicum on an individual basis with participating students. Dr. Schwartz is primarily responsible for evaluating and assigning grades for students participating in the practicum.

The practicum is a one semester course. Students are expected to spend a total of 40 hours engaged in on-site activities. Practicum activities take place at the IU School of Medicine, IU Health hospitals, and (through special arrangement) Eskenazi Hospital. FCME activities take place on Wednesday mornings, usually beginning at 9:00 AM and ending at noon.

Relative to each student’s areas of interest, experience may be gained in a number of different hospital-based clinical ethics activities, such as clinical ethics consultation, chaplaincy and the religious/spiritual aspects of clinical ethics, and legal aspects of clinical ethics and health law.

Students are required to complete the following activities during the practicum semester.

  • Participate in at least six biweekly meetings of the ethics consultation service, which meet on the 2nd and 4th Wednesdays every month from 7:30-8:30 AM.
  • Participate in at least two monthly meetings of the hospital ethics committee, which meet on the 3rd Friday every month from 7:30-8:30 AM.
  • Attend at least two lectures related to clinical ethics sponsored by the FCME, Center for Bioethics, Medical Humanities Program, or Philosophy Department.
  • FCME lectures are offered, usually the first Wednesday of the month, at noon.
  • Follow through with any specialized activities arranged by the FCME.
  • Read the assigned literature about ethics consultation.

If time and circumstances permit, students may be able to observe a bedside consult. Students may also arrange meetings with individual members of a consultation service.

Students interested in additional experience in research ethics may also participate in the following activities:

  • Meetings of any of the 5 IUPUI IRBs
  • Meetings of the IUPUI Executive Committee of IRBs
  • Meetings of the IUSM Conflict of Interest Committee
  • Relevant lab meetings of investigators designing clinical trials, or
  • Research Subject Advocate program.

To complete the practicum, students will select a case study they have learned about during the semester and, maintaining compliance with confidentiality requirements, will write a critical analysis of the case or a conceptual analysis of ethical issues relevant to the case in an 18-20 page term paper due before the end of the semester. This paper may culminate in a publishable manuscript for submission to an appropriate journal or serve as the foundation for a student’s thesis/research project. In addition to the term paper, students will submit six biweekly 2-3 page reports outlining their activities and briefly describing and reflecting upon at least one of the cases they had learned about. One of these reports will be developed into a more in-depth 6-8 page analysis that will be due by mid-term and will be graded. This short analysis paper must be on a distinct topic from the student’s term paper.

Dr. Schwartz will evaluate all written assignments and assign an overall course grade: 60% for the term paper, 30% for the short analysis paper, and 10% for on-time submission of biweekly reports. Two percentage points will be deducted from the final grade, per activity, if the minimum requirements outlined above are not met by the end of the semester.

Enrollment in the practicum is limited and subject to approval by the FCME. Students who wish to be considered for the practicum should first contact Dr. Schwartz. A brief application form is required. Selected candidates will be invited for an interview to discuss an optimal educational experience.