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Bioethics: Core Concepts


Bioethics is a branch of ethical inquiry that examines the nature of biological and technological discoveries and the responsible use of biomedical advances, with particular emphasis upon their moral implications for our individual and common humanity.

The term “bioethics,” originally coined by Von Rensselaer in 1970, has evolved from a more specific emphasis upon medical ethics to include a wide range of issues such as allocation of healthcare resources, end-of-life treatment, euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide, reproductive technologies, genetic intervention, stem cell research, cloning, neuroscience, and other emerging biotechnologies. While a branch of ethical inquiry, bioethics is interdisciplinary in nature integrating such diverse fields as the life sciences, medicine, biotechnology, philosophy, theology, public policy, and law.

The articles in this section explore some of the broader issues involved in bioethics, including theological and philosophical explorations central to the discussion of bioethics, the impact bioethical issues have on society as a whole, and engaging the general public on pressing bioethical issues.


  • Michael Sleasman, “Bioethics Past, Present, and Future: Important Signposts in Human Dignity” (An overview of bioethics and the breadth of issues it encompasses).
  • Michael Sleasman, “Bioethics in Transition: Framing the Discussion”
  • Erik Clary, “On the Scandal Within the Scandal of Bioethics”
  • Teresa Iglesias, “What Does It Mean to Be Human?”
  • Hans Madueme, “Thinking Theologically About Bioethics” and “Thinking Theologically About Bioethics Revisited”
  • Robert Orr, “Addressing Issues of Moral Complicity: When? Where? Why? and Other Questions.”
  • Video resources from our Academy of Fellow Consultations on “A Theology of Embodiment as Particular Lived Experiences: Reflections on What It Means to Be Human” and “Hope & Ethics in the New Testament.”


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