Medical Ethics

The Civil Discourse Project, Duke University
June 13-15, 2024

This seminar is designed for physicians-in-training and is open also to nurses and other health professions students.

The seminar invites students to examine the central ethical questions that arise in the everyday practice of medicine and to interpret those questions through a moral framework drawing from both natural law and medicine’s traditional orientation toward the patient’s health. This framework will be contrasted with principalism and consequentialism as participants consider what sort of practice medicine is, whether it has a rational end or goal, and how medicine contributes to human flourishing.

The seminar also will consider clinical cases to examine ethical concerns that arise perennially in the practice of medicine, including: the nature of the clinician-patient relationship; the limits of medicine, the meaning of autonomy, the place of conscience in the physician’s work, the difference between an intended effect and a side effect, proportionality, human dignity, sexuality and reproduction, the beginning of life, disability, end-of-life care, and death. The seminar aims to equip participants with intellectual tools that can help them discern how to practice medicine well in the face of medicine’s clinical challenges and moral complexities.

Participants’ only cost is getting themselves to Durham, NC, arriving by end of day on June 12 to check into rooms provided in the Duke dormitories, and returning after the seminar ends at midday on June 15. All further costs are covered by the Civil Discourse Project through the generosity of its supporters.

Farr Curlin, MD, Duke University
Christopher Tollefsen, PhD, University of South Carolina Eligibility

This seminar is open to rising and current medical students or residents, as well as other health professions students. We encourage those interested to apply early, as applications are accepted on a rolling basis, and the seminar is limited to 22 participants.

Application Requirements and Instructions:
All applicants must submit the following forms and documents via e-mail to

  • Curriculum vitae or resume, including your nationality.
  • Cover letter discussing the reasons for your interest in the seminar, an overview of any relevant experience in the seminar’s topic. Please explain how you found out about the seminar.