Skip to main content Skip to secondary navigation

Shades of Grey Between Life and Death: Neuro-Ethics Across the Pacific

Main content start

Program Quick Facts

  • Location: Primarily split between Tokyo and Kyoto, with short overnight side trip to Koyasan/Nara.
  • Stanford Faculty Leaders: Karen Hirsch & Holly Tabor
  • Arrival Date: June 20, 2024
  • Departure Date: July 7, 2024
  • Program Cost: $600
  • Academic Prerequisites: Students are required to complete a 3-unit spring quarter course (HUMBIO 171E). Students who have already taken the course in previous years are eligible to participate.
  • Activity Level: Light. Activities may include city walking tours, easy/short hikes, museums, and other site visits.
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Health Information for Travelers to Japan
  • US State Department Country Information: Japan International Travel Information
  • Visa Information: Consulate General of Japan
  • Application Deadline: Monday, January 29, 2024 at 11:59 am PT

General Description

This BOSP seminar will provide an in-depth exploration of neuro-ethical issues surrounding life and death in Japan and America. Participants will learn about the medical, ethical, cultural and legal dimensions of brain death and organ donation in two unique cultural contexts. The immersive international experience will include opportunities with interdisciplinary and international experts both in the US and Japan. The in-country itinerary will focus largely on Japanese cultural experiences, but will also include visits with physicians, anthropologists, ethicists, and organ transplant experts.

Learning Goals

  1. To understand bioethical principles, their application to current controversies in medicine and neuroscience, and how cultural factors influence these principles.
  2. To understand current ethical and legal constructs and challenges to diagnosing brain death and managing deceased donors for organ transplantation in the US and Japan.
  3. To understand historical and cultural contexts that influence Japanese attitudes and policies about death, dying, and organ transplantation.

Living and Travel Conditions

Japan will be hot and rainy. Accommodations will include hotels with air conditioning in most places, though a stay in a tradition Ryokan in the mountains may be included. Optional easy-to-moderate hikes will be offered but are not required. Activities will include a lot of walking.


Dr. Karen Hirsch

Dr. Hirsch is an Associate Professor of Neurology and neurocritical care physician whose practice focuses on the care of patients with severe neurologic injury in the intensive care unit. She runs an NIH funded research program studying brain injury after cardiac arrest, coma recovery, and ethical issues in emerging neurotechnology including brain computer interface technology. Dr. Hirsch is dedicated to undergraduate education through teaching a HumBio course alongside Dr. Tabor and through her role as a Resident Fellow in Kimball Hall.

Dr. Holly Tabor

Dr. Tabor is an Associate Professor of Medicine, Associate Director of the Stanford Center for Biomedical Ethics, and the Co-Chair of the Bioethics Committee at Stanford Hospital. Dr. Tabor's research studies ethical issues in genetics and genomics, disability, and neurotechnology including brain computer interface technology. Dr. Tabor is excited about the unique format that the BOSP seminar experience offers to engage undergraduates in discussion of ethical, medical and cultural issues at the intersection of science and society.

Prerequisites and Expectations

No academic prerequisites. No language requirement. There is an associated 3 unit spring quarter course (HUMBIO 171E) that is required for all participants. Students who have already taken the course in previous years are eligible to participate in the summer overseas program. Participation in the summer overseas seminar will require active engagement, reflection activities, and a culminating final project.

Grading Basis

Letter Grade