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Challenges And Opportunities In Ethics Education In Biomedical Engineering

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2005 Annual Conference


Portland, Oregon

Publication Date

June 12, 2005

Start Date

June 12, 2005

End Date

June 15, 2005



Conference Session

BME Potpourri

Page Count


Page Numbers

10.296.1 - 10.296.14



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Paper Authors

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Roberta Berry

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Jonathan Olinger

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Paul Benkeser

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Challenges and Opportunities in Ethics Education in Biomedical Engineering

Paul J. Benkeser1, Roberta M. Berry2 and Jonathan D. Olinger3

Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology and Emory University1 / Schools of Public Policy2 and Aerospace Engineering3, Georgia Institute of Technology

I. Introduction

The challenges of interdisciplinarity—integrating bioscience, biomedical, and bioengineering knowledge and skills—are well known to biomedical engineering (BME) educators. Undergraduate BME engineering educators face the additional challenge of preparing their students for diverse professional career paths in a wide variety of settings—as engineers in industry, physicians in private or public medical clinics, biomedical researchers in academia, industry or government, and many others. The opportunities opened up by interdisciplinarity and this profusion of career paths are also well known: fresh insights from novel cuts through old problems, techniques ported across disciplines and practices, innovations transferred from laboratory bench to surgeon’s suite. The distinctive opportunities for graduates are a function not only of interdisciplinarity and diverse career options, but of the common subject matter and purpose of their work: interventions in life systems for human benefit.

Ethics education for BME undergraduates presents related challenges and opportunities. Across cultures and religions, time and place, individuals care vitally about interventions in life systems. They value highly the potential benefits for human well-being and they greatly fear the potential harms. They may attach ethical significance to interventions—regardless of any benefits or harms—because the subject matter consists of living things. They often disagree with one another about the ethical and social implications of interventions due to differing and inconsistent worldviews. Understanding and addressing these professional, ethical, and social issues will be difficult but integral to the work of BME graduates regardless of the particulars of their career path or work setting. But the particulars of these issues will vary according to profession and workplace: engineers may be chiefly concerned with ethical responsibilities that run to employers, clients, and end-users; physicians may be concerned primarily with responsibilities to patients; and the most salient ethical issues for researchers may center on the use of animal or human subjects in experiments. The BME curriculum is already crowded due to the demands of developing interdisciplinary scientific and technical expertise, and faculty are already stretched to the limit meeting the demands of interdisciplinary instruction. If undergraduate BME ethics demands both in-depth and wide-ranging treatment of these difficult

Proceedings of the 2005 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2005, American Society for Engineering Education

Berry, R., & Olinger, J., & Benkeser, P. (2005, June), Challenges And Opportunities In Ethics Education In Biomedical Engineering Paper presented at 2005 Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon. 10.18260/1-2--14697

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