Defense Date


Graduation Date

Spring 5-11-2018


One-year Embargo

Submission Type


Degree Name



Health Care Ethics


McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts

Committee Chair

Gerard Magill

Committee Member

Henk ten Have

Committee Member

Joris Gielen


ethics, forensic science, ethical reasoning, bioethics, education


Forensic science applies scientific methods to matters related to the legal system. Members of the forensic field are part of the criminal justice system charged with upholding justice through science. Numerous wrongful convictions and ethical issues involving forensic science indicate a need to dissect the field from a different perspective. Stories in the media regularly identify ethical issues in forensic science ranging from individual misconduct to systemic organizational failures that lead to injustice. Even with these journalistic investigations, a lack of awareness remains regarding the contribution of ethical reasoning skills in forensic science. This dissertation addresses that gap in the forensic field by discussing the potential contribution of ethical reasoning skills to forensic science. Additionally, embedded throughout the dissertation is a discussion regarding how the principles and reasoning in bioethics contributes to ethical reasoning skills in forensic science.

The dissertation begins by exploring the criminal investigation process along with using a sexual assault investigation to explore paths where bioethics can guide practice. Next, the foundational ethical principles and reasoning in bioethics are presented. Examination of the foundational principles in bioethics and their application in healthcare ethics and research ethics provides the ethical groundwork from which ethical reasoning skills develop. Then a return to forensic science explores the ethical culture in the field. In addition to a bioethics framework, content focused on different reasoning models highlight the contribution of ethical reasoning skills in forensic science. The work of American philosopher Charles Sanders Peirce that focuses on solving problems and analyzing situations using three types of reasoning modes is paramount to understanding and applying reasoning skills. Building on the theoretical foundation from the previous chapters, problem-based learning activities were developed to create educational tools designed to foster ethical reasoning skills in forensic science.