What Is Bioethics?

What is Bioethics? It’s complicated.

Not even all bioethicists agree on its definition. However, some broadly accepted outlines have emerged as the field has grown in prominence since the 1970s.

New medicines, biomedical procedures, and ways of altering plants and animals are bringing benefits to millions of people. However, these same innovations also have the potential to bring harms or to raise other kinds of ethical questions about their appropriate use.

Bioethics is the multi-disciplinary study of, and response, to these moral and ethical questions.

Bioethical questions often involve overlapping concerns from diverse fields of study including life sciences, biotechnology, public health, medicine, public policy, law, philosophy and theology. They arise in clinical, research, and political arenas, usually in response to advances in biology, health care, and technology, particularly biotechnology.

Although bioethics began as a multi-disciplinary field of study, it is now a full-fledged discipline in its own right. As technology advances ever more quickly, and questions involving its implementation become more complex, bioethics will continue to grow and become increasingly important.