Bioethics Curriculum


“The JP Bioethics program is like a light in the dark.”- Angelica Babauta, Class of 2012, House of Dominic



_DSC0017 - v7Saint John Paul the Great is the only Catholic high school in the United States to offer a four-year Bioethics Curriculum©. Developed specifically for this school, the flagship Bioethics Curriculum© provides students with the foundation needed to address the serious medical and ethical issues of the 21st Century by equipping them with principles specific to the fields of health care and the life sciences.

The required program is based in philosophy, science, and ethics, teaching students how to think and reason logically through complex issues. The substance and process of the curriculum teach students how to make wise personal decisions, as well as enable them to promote responsibly ethical policies and practices which advance the common good and foster greater respect for the human person.

Three central concepts permeate the entire Bioethics curriculum as recurring themes:

  • The exalted dignity of every human person because of his or her God-given powers of intellect and free will to choose good,
  • The capacity for ethical reasoning present in human nature, and
  • The relation of ethical reasoning to the common good and to genuine human fulfillment and happiness.

All John Paul teachers receive introductory training in Bioethics. The Bioethics Curriculum© compliments the accredited college-preparatory curriculum in core subjects, such as Science, Math, English, Religion, and History. Students are able to thoughtfully apply bioethical concepts to various historical events, literary themes, scientific facts, and religious tenets.

Colleges and universities rightly identify Bioethics courses as philosophical study, recognizing an uncommon level of preparation for higher studies, and offers a competitive edge in the admissions process.

Required Courses:

  • The Human Person
  • Health: An Ethical Approach
  • Principles of Ethics
  • Bioethical Issues at the Beginning of Life
  • Bioethical Issues at the End of Life

Elective Courses:

  • Case Studies and Application in Bioethics
  • The Human Person in a Biotech Age

For a description of courses, please see the 2019-20 Course Catalog.


What is meant by the term “bioethics”?
The word “bioethics” puts together two different ideas: “ethics,” the science that studies human acts in order to determine whether they are good or evil, and “bio,” a prefix which literally means “life.” “Bioethics,” then, is the science which determines whether our practices in the life sciences and health care are in keeping with the dignity of the human person. In other words, bioethics tries to figure out whether our use of scientific knowledge dealing with the physical life of human beings is morally good or evil.

What topics are included in the Bioethics Curriculum at Saint John Paul the Great?
The subject matter of bioethics explores issues we encounter at the beginning of human life such as artificial human reproduction (in-vitro fertilization and cloning), abortion, stem cell research, contraception, genetic manipulation, embryo adoption, and the proper use of our human sexuality. The course of study also explores issues concerning human life in its final stages, including pain management, redemptive suffering, end-of-life medical care, organ donation, euthanasia, and assisted suicide, among others.

In what manner are these bioethical issues explored?
bioethicsstudent artworkOur bioethics program examines issues through a careful integration of faith and reason, relying on scientific fact and natural law. Students begin with a philosophical study of the human person in which they come to understand – among other things – the relationship of body and soul, the various powers of the human soul, and the reasons why human persons have such an exalted dignity. After coming to understand the nature of the human person, students are introduced to the foundational ethical principles which will enable them to make correct moral judgments in their lives as well as to evaluate correctly specific bioethical issues. Students learn the criteria used to judge good and evil acts. They come to see that such judgments are not arbitrary, that is, not based merely on a personal view; rather, they are based on objective standards. Once this foundation has been laid, the students are ready to delve into the bioethical issues themselves.

How does the Bioethics Curriculum fit into the overall course of study at Saint John Paul the Great?
Our standard college-prep curriculum is enhanced by the two and a half credit requirement of our bioethics program. Concepts taught in bioethics are integrated into and reinforced in other areas of study, enabling students to see that the same truth evident in one class manifests itself in another. For example, understanding the dignity of the human person is pivotal not only to understanding the ethical evaluation of a bioethical topic such as in vitro fertilization but also to grasping the atrocities of the Nazi Holocaust they study in history class. And, in reading Nathaniel Hawthorne’s short story, “The Birthmark,” in English class, students find a clear example of the dangers of eugenics they discuss in their bioethics class. In order to maximize this integration, the faculty and staff of Saint John Paul the Great Catholic High School are instructed in the foundational principles of bioethics.