Moral Histories

Stories and Voices from the Founding Figures of Bioethics

The Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics is undertaking an oral history project to interview members of the founding generation of American bioethics.

The field of Bioethics in the United States was born in the crucible of social upheaval and scandal of the 1970s.  In the shadow of the civil rights movement, the recognition of patients’ rights to self-determination, and the disclosure of scandals like the Tuskegee Syphilis Study, a group of idealistic young philosophers and theologians began to work with physicians, nurses, lawyers, and others to begin to sort out the moral complexities of advancing medicine.

This founding generation created a new field that would eventually come to be called bioethics, and their work has had far reaching impact and influence on the lives of people around the world—in shaping laws and influencing legal decisions, in shaping government policies, and in crafting approaches to decision making that continue to be used in managing complex medical cases, from definitions of death to allocation of lifesaving resources to responses to public health emergencies.  This is an essential history to capture.

Moral Histories, the resulting collection, serves as a unique and accessible resource for understanding the creation and formation of the field.  It will become part of a group of projects designed to inform and engage the multiple publics interested in bioethics, including scholars, policy makers, health care professionals, researchers, students, and of course the public at large.

Recommend an Interviewee

We are asking for your assistance in creating a diverse and comprehensive telling of the history of the field. Please submit your recommendations using the form below and, resources permitting, we very much hope to be able to continue to collect more interviews as we work to create an interdisciplinary, international collection.

Recommendation Form (click to open)

Upcoming Oral Histories

  • Margaret P. Battin, PhD, Distinguished Professor of Philosophy, University of Utah
  • Tom L. Beauchamp, PhD, Professor Emeritus, Kennedy Institute of Ethics, Georgetown University
  • Arthur Caplan, PhD, Drs. William F. and Virginia Connolly Mitty Professor of Bioethics, NYU Grossman School of Medicine
  • Alexander Capron, LLB, Scott H. Bice Chair in Healthcare Law, Policy and Ethics, USC Gould School of Law
  • James F. Childress, PhD, John Allen Hollingsworth Professor of Ethics, University of Virginia
  • Ruth R. Faden, PhD, Philip Franklin Wagley Professor of Biomedical Ethics, Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics
  • Norman Fost, MD, Professor Emeritus, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health
  • Samuel Gorovitz, PhD, Professor of Philosophy, Syracuse University
  • Patricia A. King, JD, Professor Emerita, Georgetown University School of Law
  • Loretta Kopelman, PhD, Professor Emeritus, Department of Medical Humanities, East Carolina University
  • Bernard Lo, MD, Professor of Medicine Emeritus, University of California, San Francisco
  • Ruth Macklin, PhD, Distinguished University Professor Emerita, Department of Epidemiology & Population Health, Albert Einstein College of Medicine
  • Laurence B. McCullough, PhD, Distinguished Emeritus Professor, Baylor College of Medicine
  • Thomas H. Murray, PhD, President Emeritus, The Hastings Center
  • Mark Siegler, MD, Lindy Bergman Distinguished Service Professor of Medicine, University of Chicago School of Medicine
  • LeRoy Walters, PhD, Professor Emeritus, Kennedy Institute of Ethics, Georgetown University

This site will be updated as interviews become available.