Bioethics and Health

Ethics is the term given to the philosophical schools of thought that preside over the notions of right and wrong, good or bad and moral life in general. Bioethics is the application of these principles to the field of healthcare and the medical community. Ethicists and bioethicists are constantly producing more and more important questions as opposed to finding any sound and certain answers.

What does it mean to do right or perform tasks in a decidedly “good” way? What does “worthwhile” really mean? Do we have obligations to each other? Where Does responsibility lie and to whom for what? What are fitting responses to moral dilemmas given in the context they are found? On what ground are moral decisions made? How do these apply to the field of medicine? What are Bioethics?

These questions and more are asked by bioethicists in the contexts of modern medicine and the health care it hopes to provide. In an attempt to find answers to these questions, bioethicists draw on traditional answers both from religious origins and secular philosophy. This provides some parameters to guide the contentious moral differences that civil discourse produces. Bioethicists promote the development of public comprehension of moral philosophy as it pertains to the scientific advances in the realm of health care.

It is important to understand how the way humans experience the meanings of good health and sickness ultimately changes the way we look at death and life.

Bioethics is multidisciplinary study blending the elements of law, history, theology and philosophy with elements of medicine, nursing, and health policies. The insights gleaned from all these disciplines are cautiously applied to the complex intersections of human life where it meets technology and science. While the questions being asked are as old as human thought, the answers produced are far more recent and hard to capture in a single definition.

The term “bioethics” was first seen in 1971 by either the university of Wisconsin’s Professor Van Rensselaer or by the staff working at Kennedy Institute in D.C. It was first used to describe the combination of bio-sciences as they pertain to humanistic knowledge.

The field on the bioethics as we see it today encompasses many topics and concerns that deal with difficult decisions on a personal level in clinical settings, like the dispute over the viability of euthanasia to relieve suffering in dying patients. Others surround the controversial arguments both for and against stem cell research. Then there are much broader subjects such as the use of human test subjects in laboratories and to what extent this is a good for progress or bad for human life.

This fascinating array of topics can be neatly segmented under four domains laid out by the Center for Practical Bioethics. These are disparities of health and healthcare, clinical and organizational ethics and life sciences and aging and the end of life.

What Does Bioethics Accomplish?

The interdisciplinary dialogue helps to apply foundational discipline of theology and philosophy into the perspective of sociology, law, anthropology, medicine and more.

Many of the most important questions laid out by issues in global health and healthcare, the meaning of distributive justice and the purpose of life science in health care are addressed by those focused on the bioethical sides of each topic. Bioethicists then go onto explore the deeper issues involved such as the timeless question “what is the meaning of life or death?”


Many would say that the small multi-disciplinary school of thought has grown into a fully matured discipline. Bioethics has already produced a full scale literary section and has journals and publishers making surprising advances in the way these topics are viewed. There are also many full time vocational specialists in the field of clinical consultations on these ethical topics.

There is also training and educational advances offered to those who wish to raise their educational foundation on the matter to the level of PhD or Masters. There are also specific guilds and societies dedicated to the pursuit and study of Bioethics, the largest and most well-known of these is the American Society of Bioethics and Humanities. This society has commissioned a committee to address the situation of a lack of code that presides over the practice of clinical ethics and is in the process of developing certification for the study as well.