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{{About|the discipline|the journal|Bioethics (journal)}}{{Science|expanded=inter}}Bioethics is the study of the ethical issues emerging from advances in biology and medicine. It is also moral discernment as it relates to medical policy and practice. Bioethics are concerned with the ethical questions that arise in the relationships among life sciences, biotechnology, medicine, politics, law, and philosophy. It includes the study of values ("the ethics of the ordinary") relating to primary care and other branches of medicine. Ethics also relates to many other sciences outside the realm of biological sciences.


The term Bioethics (Greek bios, life; ethos, behavior) was coined in 1926 by Fritz Jahr in an article about a "bioethical imperative" regarding the use of animals and plants in scientific research. Rinčić, I., Muzur, A.: Fritz Jahr i rađanje europske bioetike (Fritz Jahr and the Birth of European Bioethics). Zagreb: Pergamena, 2012., p. 141 (Croatian) In 1970, the American biochemist Van Rensselaer Potter used the term to describe the relationship between the biosphere and a growing human population. Potter's work laid the foundation for global ethics, a discipline centered around the link between biology, ecology, medicine, and human values.JOURNAL, Lolas, Fernando, Bioethics and animal research: A personal perspective and a note on the contribution of Fritz Jahr, Biological Research (Santiago), 2008, 41, 1, 119–23, 10.4067/S0716-97602008000100013,weblink 15 January 2010, no,weblink" title="">weblink 1 November 2013, Goldim, J. R. (2009). Revisiting the beginning of bioethics: The contributions of Fritz Jahr (1927). Perspect Biol Med, Sum, 377–80.Sargent Shriver, the spouse of Eunice Kennedy Shriver, claimed that he had invented the word "bioethics" in the living room of his home in Bethesda, Maryland in 1970. He stated that he thought of the word after returning from a discussion earlier that evening at Georgetown University, where he discussed with others a possible Kennedy family sponsorship of an institute focused around the "application of moral philosophy to concrete medical dilemmas."JOURNAL, Martensen, Robert, April 2001, The History of Bioethics: An Essay Review,weblink Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences, 56, 168-175, Project MUSE,

Purpose and scope

The field of bioethics has addressed a broad swathe of human inquiry; ranging from debates over the boundaries of life (e.g. abortion, euthanasia), surrogacy, the allocation of scarce health care resources (e.g. organ donation, health care rationing), to the right to refuse medical care for religious or cultural reasons. Bioethicists often disagree among themselves over the precise limits of their discipline, debating whether the field should concern itself with the ethical evaluation of all questions involving biology and medicine, or only a subset of these questions.JOURNAL, Muzur, Amir, The nature of bioethics revisited: A comment on Tomislav Bracanović, Developing World Bioethics, 14, 109–10, 2014, 10.1111/dewb.12008, 23279218, Some bioethicists would narrow ethical evaluation only to the morality of medical treatments or technological innovations, and the timing of medical treatment of humans. Others would broaden the scope of ethical evaluation to include the morality of all actions that might help or harm organisms capable of feeling fear.The scope of bioethics can expand with biotechnology, including cloning, gene therapy, life extension, human genetic engineering, astroethics and life in space,WEB,weblink Astroethics, 21 December 2005, no,weblink" title="">weblink 23 October 2013, and manipulation of basic biology through altered DNA, XNA and proteins.BOOK, Freemont, P. F., Kitney, R. I., 2012, Synthetic Biology, World Scientific, New Jersey, 978-1-84816-862-6, These developments will affect future evolution, and may require new principles that address life at its core, such as biotic ethics that values life itself at its basic biological processes and structures, and seeks their propagation.JOURNAL, Mautner, Michael N., Life-centered ethics, and the human future in space, Bioethics, 23, 433–40, 2009, 10.1111/j.1467-8519.2008.00688.x, 19077128,weblink no,weblink" title="">weblink 2012-11-02,


One of the first areas addressed by modern bioethicists was that of human experimentation. The National Commission for the Protection of Human Subjects of Biomedical and Behavioral Research was initially established in 1974 to identify the basic ethical principles that should underlie the conduct of biomedical and behavioral research involving human subjects. However, the fundamental principles announced in the Belmont Report (1979)—namely, respect for persons, beneficence and justice—have influenced the thinking of bioethicists across a wide range of issues. Others have added non-maleficence, human dignity, and the sanctity of life to this list of cardinal values. Overall, the Belmont Report (1979) has guided research in a direction focused on protecting vulnerable subjects as well as pushing for transparency between the researcher and the subject. Research has flourished within the past 40 years and due to the advance in technology, it is thought that human subjects have outgrown the Belmont Report (1979) and the need for revision is desired.JOURNAL, Friesen, Phoebe, Kearns, Lisa, Redman, Barbara, Caplan, Arthur L., Rethinking the Belmont Report?, The American journal of bioethics: AJOB, 2017, 17, 7, 15–21, 10.1080/15265161.2017.1329482, 1536-0075, 28661753, Another important principle of bioethics is its placement of value on discussion and presentation. Numerous discussion based bioethics groups exist in universities across the United States to champion exactly such goals. Examples include the Ohio State Bioethics SocietyWEB,weblink The Bioethics Society of Ohio State,, 2013-09-17, no,weblink" title="">weblink 2013-06-13, and the Bioethics Society of Cornell.WEB, Bioethics Society of Cornell,weblink Cornell University,weblink" title="">weblink 17 June 2012, Professional level versions of these organizations also exist.Many bioethicists, especially medical scholars, accord the highest priority to autonomy. They believe that each patient should determine which course of action they consider most in line with their beliefs. In other words, the patient should always have the freedom to choose their own treatment .JOURNAL, Entwistle, Vikki A., Carter, Stacy M., Cribb, Alan, McCaffery, Kirsten, 2016-10-28, Supporting Patient Autonomy: The Importance of Clinician-patient Relationships, Journal of General Internal Medicine, 25, 7, 741–45, 10.1007/s11606-010-1292-2, 0884-8734, 2881979, 20213206,weblink

Medical ethics

Medical ethics is the study of moral values and judgments as they apply to medicine. The four main moral commitments are respect for autonomy, beneficence, nonmaleficence, and justice. Using these four principles and thinking about what the physicians’ specific concern is for their scope of practice can help physicians make moral decisions.JOURNAL, Gillon, R., 1994-07-16, Medical ethics: four principles plus attention to scope., BMJ: British Medical Journal, 309, 6948, 184–88, 0959-8138, 2540719, 8044100, 10.1136/bmj.309.6948.184, As a scholarly discipline, medical ethics encompasses its practical application in clinical settings as well as work on its history, philosophy, theology, and sociology.Medical ethics tends to be understood narrowly as an applied professional ethics; whereas bioethics has a more expansive application, touching upon the philosophy of science and issues of biotechnology. The two fields often overlap, and the distinction is more so a matter of style than professional consensus. Medical ethics shares many principles with other branches of healthcare ethics, such as nursing ethics. A bioethicist assists the health care and research community in examining moral issues involved in our understanding of life and death, and resolving ethical dilemmas in medicine and science. Examples of this would be the topic of equality in medicine, the intersection of cultural practices and medical care, and issues of bioterrorism.JOURNAL, Horne, L. Chad, Medical Need, Equality, and Uncertainty, Bioethics, 30, 8, 588–96, 10.1111/bioe.12257, 2016,

Perspectives and methodology

Bioethicists come from a wide variety of backgrounds and have training in a diverse array of disciplines. The field contains individuals trained in philosophy such as H. Tristram Engelhardt, Jr. of Rice University, Baruch Brody of Rice University, Peter Singer of Princeton University, Daniel Callahan of the Hastings Center, and Daniel Brock of Harvard University; medically trained clinician ethicists such as Mark Siegler of the University of Chicago and Joseph Fins of Cornell University; lawyers such as Nancy Dubler of Albert Einstein College of Medicine or Jerry Menikoff of the federal Office of Human Research Protections; political scientists like Francis Fukuyama; religious studies scholars including James Childress; public intellectuals like Amitai Etzioni of The George Washington University; and theologians like Lisa Sowle Cahill and Stanley Hauerwas. The field, formerly dominated by formally trained philosophers, has become increasingly interdisciplinary, with some critics even claiming that the methods of analytic philosophy have had a negative effect on the field's development. Leading journals in the field include The Journal of Medicine and Philosophy, The Hastings Center Report, the American Journal of Bioethics, the Journal of Medical Ethics, Bioethics, the Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal and the Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics. Bioethics has also benefited from the process philosophy developed by Alfred North Whitehead.Cf. Michel Weber and Will Desmond (eds.). Handbook of Whiteheadian Process Thought {{webarchive|url= |date=2015-11-12 }} (Frankfurt / Lancaster, Ontos Verlag, Process Thought X1 & X2, 2008) and Ronny Desmet & Michel Weber (edited by), Whitehead. The Algebra of Metaphysics. Applied Process Metaphysics Summer Institute Memorandum {{webarchive|url= |date=2017-07-27 }}, Louvain-la-Neuve, Les Éditions Chromatika, 2010.Many religious communities have their own histories of inquiry into bioethical issues and have developed rules and guidelines on how to deal with these issues from within the viewpoint of their respective faiths. The Jewish, Christian andMuslim faiths have each developed a considerable body of literature on these matters.As regards the Christian Orthodox perspective see e.g. Constantine B. Scouteris, Bioethics in the light of orthodox anthropology, Polytechnic School of Crete (ed), First International Conference: Christian Anthropology and Biotechnological Progress (Financially Supported by CTNS, U.S.A.), Orthodox Academy of Crete, 26-29 September 2002, pp. 75-81. In the case of many non-Western cultures, a strict separation of religion from philosophy does not exist. In many Asian cultures, for example, there is a lively discussion on bioethical issues. Buddhist bioethics, in general, is characterised by a naturalistic outlook that leads to a rationalistic, pragmatic approach. Buddhist bioethicists include Damien Keown. In India, Vandana Shiva is a leading bioethicist speaking from the Hindu tradition. In Africa, and partly also in Latin America, the debate on bioethics frequently focuses on its practical relevance in the context of underdevelopment and geopolitical power relationsBOOK, Basics of Bioethics and Safety, Bobyrov, Vazhnicha, Devyatkina, Viktor M., Olena M., Tetyana O., Nova Knyha, 2012, 978-966-382-407-9, .{{vague|date=April 2015}} Masahiro Morioka argues that in Japan the bioethics movement was first launched by disability activists and feminists in the early 1970s, while academic bioethics began in the mid-1980s. During this period, unique philosophical discussions on brain death and disability appeared both in the academy and journalism.See Feminism, Disability, and Brain Death {{webarchive|url= |date=2015-12-22 }} Some argue that spirituality and understanding one another as spiritual beings and moral agents is an important aspect of bioethics, and that spirituality and bioethics are heavily intertwined with one another. As a healthcare provider, it is important to know and understand varying world views and religious beliefs. Having this knowledge and understanding can empower healthcare providers with the ability to better treat and serve their patients. Developing a connection and understanding of a patient's moral agent helps enhance the care provided to the patient. Without this connection or understanding, patients can be at risk of becoming "faceless units of work" and being looked at as a "set of medical conditions" as opposed to the storied and spiritual beings that they are. JOURNAL, King, Muldoon, Norman, Maureen, December 1995, Spirituality, Healthcare, and Bioethics,weblink Journal of Religion and Health, 34, 329-350, Springer Link,

Islamic Bioethics

Islamic bioethics is heavily influenced and connected to the teachings of the Qur'an as well as the teachings of Prophet Muhammad. These influences essentially make it an extension of Shariah or Islamic Law. In Islamic Bioethics, passages from the Qur'an are often used to validate various medical practices. For example, a passage from the Qur'an states "whosoever killeth a human being … it shall be as if he had killed all humankind, and whosoever saveth the life of one, it shall be as if he saved the life of all humankind." This excerpt can be used to encourage using medicine and medical practices to save lives, but can also be looked at as a protest against euthanasia and assisted suicide. In an effort to react to new technological and medical advancements, informed Islamic jurists regularly will hold conferences to discuss new bioethical issues and come to an agreement on where they stand on the issue from an Islamic perspective. This allows Islamic bioethics to stay pliable and responsive to new advancements in medicine.JOURNAL, Daar, Khitamy, Abdallah S., A., January 9, 2001, Bioethics for clinicians: 21. Islamic Bioethics, whosoever killeth a human being … it shall be as if he had killed all humankind, and whosoever saveth the life of one, it shall be as if he saved the life of all humankind., Canadian Medical Association Journal, The standpoints taken by Islamic jurists on bioethical issues are not always unanimous decisions and at times may differ. There is much diversity among Muslims varying from country to country, and the different degrees to which they adhere by Shariah.JOURNAL, Bagheri, Alireza, December 2014, Priority Setting in Islamic Bioethics: Top 10 Bioethical Challenges in Islamic Countries,weblink Asian Bioethics Review, 6, 391-401, Project MUSE, The two main branches of Islam; Sunni and Shia, is what leads to the diversity and varying beliefs in bioethics in the Islamic world. Each branch has their own beliefs in regards to jurisprudence, theology, and ethics. Differences and disagreements in beliefs between the branches leads to differences in the methods and ways in which Islamic bioethics is practiced throughout the Islamic world.JOURNAL, Aramesh, Kiarash, December 2009, Iran's Experience on Religious Bioethics: An Overview,weblink Asian Bioethics Review, 1, 318-328, Project MUSE,


Bioethics is taught in courses at the undergraduate and graduate level in different academic disciplines or programs, such as Philosophy, Medicine, Law, Social Sciences. It has become a requirement for professional accreditation in many health professional programs (Medicine, Nursing, Rehabilitation), to have obligatory training in ethics (e.g., professional ethics, medical ethics, clinical ethics, nursing ethics). Interest in the field and professional opportunitiesWEB,weblink Bioethics Grows, But Will Jobs Follow?, MD Magazine, 2018-07-01, have led to the development of dedicated programs with concentrations in Bioethics, largely in the United StatesWEB,weblink An Overview of Graduate Educational Bioethics Programs in the United States, Lee, Katarina, 2016, BCM, 2018-07-01, and Europe, offering undergraduate majors/minors, graduate certificates, and Masters and Doctorate degrees. Every medical school in Canada teaches bioethics so that students can gain an understanding of biomedical ethics and use the knowledge gained in their future careers to provide better patient care. Canadian residency training programs are required to teach bioethics as it is one of the conditions of accreditation, and is a requirement by the College of Family Physicians of Canada and by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada.JOURNAL, McKneally, Singer, Martin F., Peter A., April 17, 2001, Bioethics for Clinicians: 25. Teaching Bioethics in the Clinical Setting,weblink Canadian Medical Association Journal, 164, 1163-1167,


As a study, bioethics has also drawn criticism. For instance, Paul Farmer noted that bioethics tends to focus its attention on problems that arise from "too much care" for patients in industrialized nations, while giving little or no attention to the ethical problem of too little care for the poor.BOOK, Farmer, Paul, Pathologies of Power, 196–212, Farmer characterizes the bioethics of handling morally difficult clinical situations, normally in hospitals in industrialized countries, as "quandary ethics". BOOK, Farmer, Paul, Pathologies of Power, 205, He does not regard quandary ethics and clinical bioethics as unimportant; he argues, rather, that bioethics must be balanced and give due weight to the poor.Additionally, bioethics has been condemned for its lack of diversity in thought, particularly with regards to race. Even as the field has grown to include the areas of public opinion, policymaking, and medical decisions, little to no academic writing has been authored concerning the intersection between race- especially the cultural values imbued in that construct- and bioethical literature. John Hoberman illustrates this in a 2016 critique, in which he points out that bioethicists have been traditionally resistant to expanding their discourse to include sociological and historically relevant applications. JOURNAL, Hoberman, J., Why Bioethics Has a Race Problem, The Hastings Center Report, 46, 2, 12–18, 10.1002/hast.542, 2016, Central to this is the notion of white normativity, which establishes the dominance of white hegemonic structures in bioethical academiaJOURNAL, Karsjens, K.L., White Normativity and Subsequent Critical Race Deconstruction of Bioethics, The American Journal of Bioethics, 3, 2, 22–23, 10.1162/152651603766436144, 2003, and tends to reinforce existing biases. However, differing views on bioethics' lack of diversity of thought and social inclusivity have also been advanced. Thought historian Heikki Saxén has argued that the diversity of thought and social inclusivity are the two essential cornerstones of bioethics, albeit they have not been fully realized.BOOK,weblink A Cultural Giant: An interpretation of bioethics in light of its intellectual and cultural history, Saxén, Heikki, Tampere University Press, 2017, 978-952-03-0523-9, Tampere, Some criticisms have been made about the experience of disability. Some people in the disabled community {{ambiguous|date=December 2017}} feel that mainstream bioethics embraces ableist premises about medical care and resources. Thinkers such as Princeton's Peter Singer, who has argued that parents have the right to choose healthy children over disabled ones, have upset people with disabilities, who feel threatened by his position.{{cn|date=March 2018}}


Areas of health sciences that are the subject of published, peer-reviewed bioethical analysis include:{hide}Columns-list|colwidth=30em| {edih}

See also

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External links

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