Master’s Degree Requirements

Students are required to complete 30 credits of coursework, including 16 credits required courses and 9 credits of electives.

In addition to taking the required courses and electives, students will complete a Practicum and a Portfolio & Capstone Project. 

Email to inquire about the most current electives offerings, as the availability of courses may vary from semester to semester. 


🗹 6 Required Courses (16 credits)

🗹 3 Electives (9 credits)

🗹 Practicum (3 credits)

🗹 Portfolio & Capstone Project (2 credits)

Required Courses

The following 6 core courses are required for the Master of Arts Degree in Catholic Clinical Ethics. All the courses are online except the Practicum.

Course Instructors:
Paul Scherz, PhD, Daniel Sulmasy, MD, PhD

This course will introduce students to the most necessary theological and general philosophical concepts regarding anthropology, social ethics, and health for them to effectively function as ethicists in a Catholic health care institution. A solid foundation in the philosophical and theological concepts related to medicine will be instrumental in addressing the challenging conceptual and practical ethical questions that arise in healthcare. Each class will examine a specific concept through the use of a case study supplemented by background readings. Topics covered will include: healthcare as a vocation, the doctor-patient relationship, dignity, embodiment, autonomy, suffering, death, technology, and justice in the distribution of healthcare.

Course Instructors:
Paul Scherz, PhD
Myles N. Sheehan, SJ, MD

This course will introduce students to the necessary ethical concepts to analyze individual cases and actions. The first few classes will discuss prerequisite knowledge but it will swiftly move into using case studies to illuminate the tools of the Catholic moral tradition. This course will primarily introduce students to prerequisite knowledge for the rest of the program, the skills of case analysis, the ability to recognize other ethical viewpoints, and the ability to list alternative possibilities.

Prerequisites: Previous or Concurrent enrollment in Philosophy of Medicine & Applied Ethical Reasoning

Course Instructors:
Claudia Ruiz Sotomayor,MD, DBe
G. Kevin Donovan, MD, MA

This is a case-based, foundational course that introduces students to theoretical and practical ethics/bioethics in healthcare. This course will analyze continuing controversies in bioethics and emerging, controverted bioethical issues through case analysis. The primary emphasis will be developing the higher skills of ethical reasoning by applying conceptual tools learned in earlier courses to a broader range of case studies, but students will also be obtaining important prerequisite knowledge on these topics as they analyze the cases. Topics covered will vary based on emerging problems in Catholic clinical ethics but examples include: whole genome newborn screening, artificial nutrition and hydration, organ markets, research design for Ebola vaccine trials, and addressing noncompliant patients.

Course Instructor:
John Grabowski, PhD

A course primarily focused on developing the level of fluency in and mastery of Catholic theology that the CHA requires for systems level ethicists. The course will emphasize theological concepts and reasoning. Topics covered with reference to scripture and the Church’s tradition will include the concept of the person in relation to Christology and Trinitarian theology, and human solidarity and communion in relation to ecclesiology and the Church’s sacramental life. The course will foster students’ ability to think through and analyze these topics as they apply to difficult cases involving questions of human life, personhood, and Church authority in Catholic healthcare settings.

Prerequisites: Applied Ethical Reasoning; Foundations of Catholic Clinical Bioethics

Course Instructor:
Myles N. Sheehan, SJ, MD

This course explores Catholic clinical ethics in depth and helps students to work towards fluency in ethical reasoning and analysis. Course material includes: the sources and elements of Catholic ethical reasoning, alternative models of ethical reasoning (including discussion of other religions, law and ethics, and religion in the pluralist public square), and ethical analysis of specific cases.

Prerequisites: Philosophy of Medicine; Applied Ethical Reasoning; Foundations of Catholic Clinical Bioethics; Medicine, Health and the Human Person; Applied Catholic Clinical Ethics

Course Instructors:
Sarah Vittone, RN, MSN, DBe and Claudia Sotomayor, MD, DBe

Advanced Ethical Reasoning will focus on developing the level of fluency in and mastery of case analysis and ethics education that the CHA requires for systems-level ethicists. It will focus on: developing a deeper knowledge of KSA methodology so that students can develop their own portfolios and direct others in developing portfolios; introducing students to the mechanics of how consultations occur; developing conflict resolution skills; and introducing students to resources for developing their own ethics education programs.

Prerequisites: Philosophy of Medicine; Applied Ethical Reasoning; Foundations of Catholic Clinical Bioethics; Medicine, Health and the Human Person; Applied Catholic Clinical Ethics; concurrent enrollment in Advanced Ethical Reasoning in Case Consultation

Course Directors:
Sarah Vittone, RN, DBe, Georgetown University and Claudia Sotomayor, MD, DBe, Georgetown University

Myles N. Sheehan, SJ, MD, Georgetown University
G. Kevin Donovan, MD, MA, Georgetown University

The course will include asynchronous and synchronous preparations for mediation and consult skills. It will conclude with a multiday onsite component. While staying at CUA, students will be exposed to the spirituality that undergirds Catholic clinical ethics and will engage in discussions of Catholic spiritual and sacramental practices as they relate to medical care. At Georgetown University Medical Center Department of Medicine, students will engage in simulated case consultations. Some consults may take place at Washington Hospital Center’s Ethical Consult Simulation Program.

Prerequisites: Philosophy of Medicine; Applied Ethical Reasoning; Foundations of Catholic Clinical Bioethics; Medicine, Health and the Human Person; Applied Catholic Clinical Ethics; Advanced Ethical Reasoning in Case Consultation

Course Directors:
Individually determined for each student

Portfolio Project
A typical Portfolio will consist of all the student’s reflective writing assignments completed during the program, accompanied by a synopsis of all the included work, written in light of knowledge gained in coursework and prior learning experiences.

In addition to the Portfolio, each MA student will write a research paper focused on an issue chosen by the student and an instructor.  This paper will provide additional evidence of the student’s ability to investigate, evaluate, and provide recommended action to address a selected issue in clinical ethics.

Elective Courses

M.A. students must take 9 credits of electives. Check the current schedule of classes for elective courses offered each term, as they change according to faculty availability. Elective courses offered through or crosslisted with the CACE program have included Medical Ethics: Historic Texts, Neuroethics, Pediatric Ethics, and End of Life Issues in Catholic Clinical Ethics. Additional elective courses can be taken through other departments, or through the Consortium and applied to the CACE elective requirement. Such courses have included Research Ethics (CLTR), Theories of Medical Ethics (PHIL), and Christian Social Ethics (CUA). Students who identify additional courses they would like to take as electives must get approval from the CACE Program.

Students may also propose Independent Study Tutorials (CACE 9001: CACE Tutorial) to satisfy elective requirements.

CACE 5500 Neuroethics (James Giordano, PhD, MPhil) – 3 credits

This course begins with a view of how and why neuroscience has “evolved” to become a dynamic force in society. Lectures will depict how key areas of neuroscience and neurotechnology have developed to become potent forces that enable assessment, access and manipulation of brain function (in individuals, groups and perhaps even communities at-large). From this, the field – and practice(s) – of neuroethics will be addressed and discussed, with relevance to the ways that progress in neuroscience compels and sustains both the issues and dilemmas that arise in and from neuroscientific and neurotechnological research and its applications, and the importance of acknowledging and addressing the ethical basis and resolutions of such issues. Next an overview of specific frontier areas of neuroscience and technology will be presented, with emphasis upon (a) the extent and scope of new knowledge and capability that such developments afford to impact the human condition; and (b) key ethical concerns that are incurred by such neuroscientific and neurotechnological progress on the 21st century world stage. Finally, paradigms for neuroethical, legal, and social probity, safety and surety, and a putative “preparatory process” for international neuroethics and neuro-policy will be discussed.

CACE 5700 Catholic Social Teaching & Healthcare (Paul Scherz, PhD) – 3 credits

This course will allow students to engage in a deeper exploration of how Catholic Social Teaching applies to Catholic health care. The course provides an overview of the central principles of Catholic Social Teaching, such as the common good, the dignity of work, subsidiarity, and the preferential option for the poor, as they have developed in the theological and Magisterial tradition. The course will also engage other issues of social justice that relate to Catholic Social Thought such as immigration, racism, and global development. Through case studies, students will explore how to use this tradition to analyze contemporary ethical issues in health care.

CACE 5800 Pediatric Ethics (G. Kevin Donovan, MD, MA) – 3 credits

This course is designed to familiarize students with the issues that commonly arise in pediatric ethics, and recognize the knowledge areas in which these differ from other aspects of clinical ethics. Through a series of readings and/or online tutorials and lectures, and instructor-moderated discussions, they will develop and demonstrate knowledge of classic and typical cases and topics, and the skills to identify the particular ethical issues represented. 

CACE 5900 End of Life Issues (Paul Scherz, PhD) – 3 credits

Examines key biomedical issues at the end of life and the distinctions and principles necessary for their moral evaluation. Issues analyzed will include euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide, withdrawal of life support, informed consent, relief of pain and suffering, and the determination of death.  

CLTR 6500 Research Ethics & Human Subjects (Sarah Vittone, RN, MSN, DBe) – 3 credits

This course is designed to introduce students to ethical issues in the conduct of research.  The course is based on both National Institutes of Health’s (NIH’s) responsible conduct of research (RCR) and international guidelines and standards, and takes into account a broad range of ethical principles and conceptual frameworks related to research ethics.  Students will gain an understanding of 1) the definitions of responsible science generally and healthcare ethics and bioethics specifically, including comparative interpretations; 2) the complexities of healthcare ethics and bioethics in the global context; 3) the protocol and systems in place to ensure adherence to responsible science; and 4) their specific roles and responsibilities to ensure such adherence.  Consideration of healthcare ethics and bioethics is of increasing concern in the international health sphere in light of a) the existing and emerging pandemics b) the development, testing and dissemination of new medical technology, including, for example, that related to genetic research; and c) increasing implementation of research studies in developing countries by researchers in high-income countries.  The need for those engaged in health research at a wide range of levels to have an understanding of healthcare ethics and bioethics and the means available to address them is paramount. 

PHIL 8301 Theories of Medical Ethics (Daniel Sulmasy, MD, PhD) – 3 credits

This seminar will involve a close reading and critique of the most prominent theories in contemporary medical ethics, including Principlism (Beauchamp & Childress), Utilitarianism (Singer), Contractualism (Veatch), Foundationalism (Pellegrino & Thomasma), Casuistry (Jonsen & Toulmin), Continental (Habermas), and Covenantal approaches (Ramsey; May). The class will be conducted in classical seminar style, with students assigned to lead the discussions of particular texts. Our interdisciplinary discussion will exemplify and provide a context for the interdisciplinary nature of the field.