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.”


Foundations of Bioethics

These resources provide an introduction to the core concepts, methodology, and history of bioethics.

  • Akabayashi, Akira, ed. The Future of Bioethics: International Dialogues. Oxford University Press, 2014.
  • Baker, Robert. Before Bioethics: A History of American Medical Ethics from the Colonial Period to the Bioethics Revolution. Oxford University Press, 2013.
  • Cahill, Lisa Sowle. Theological Bioethics: Participation, Justice, and Change. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 2005.
  • Cameron, Nigel M. de S. The New Medicine: Life and Death After Hippocrates. Chicago: The Bioethics Press, 2001.
  • Campbell, Alastair V. Bioethics: The Basics. New York: Routledge, 2013.
  • DeGrazia, David. Human Identity and Bioethics. Cambridge University Press, 2005.
  • DeGrazia, David, Thomas Mappes, and Jeffrey Ballard. Biomedical Ethics. 7th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2010.
  • Eberl, Jason T. Thomistic Principles and Bioethics. Routledge Annals of Bioethics. New York: Routledge, 2006.
  • Eckenwiler, Lisa A., and Felicia G. Cohn, eds. The Ethics of Bioethics: Mapping the Moral Landscape. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2007.
  • Engelhardt, Tristram H., Jr. The Foundations of Bioethics. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996.
  • __________. The Foundations of Christian Bioethics. Salem, MA: M & M Scrivener, 2000.  ***
  • Furrow, Barry R., Thomas L. Greaney, Sandra H. Johnson, Timothy S. Jost, and Robert L. Schwartz. Bioethics: Health Care Law and Ethics. 7th ed. Los Angeles: West Group, 2013.
  • Gert, Bernard, Charles M. Culver, and K. Danner Clouser. Bioethics: A Systematic Approach. Oxford University Press, 2006.
  • Harris, John, ed. Bioethics. Oxford Readings in Philosophy. New York: Oxford University Press, 2001.
  • Hauerwas, Stanley. Suffering Presence: Theological Reflections on Medicine, the Mentally Handicapped, and the Church. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1986. ***
  • Holland, Stephen. Bioethics: A Philosophical Introduction. Malden, Mass.: Blackwell Publishing, 2003.
  • Jecker, Nancy S., Albert R Jonsen, and Robert A. Pearlman. Bioethics: An Introduction to the History, Methods, and Practice.  2nd ed.  Sudbury, MA: Jones & Bartlett, 2007.
  • Jonsen, Albert R. The Birth of Bioethics. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003.
  • Kuhse, Helga, and Peter Singer, eds. Bioethics: An Anthology. Blackwell Philosophy Anthologies. 2nd ed. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2006.
  • McGee, Glenn. Bioethics for Beginners: 60 Cases and Cautions from the Moral Frontier of Healthcare. Malden, Mass.: John Wiley & Sons, 2012.
  • Meilaender, Gilbert.  Bioethics: A Primer for Christians.  3nd ed. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2013. ***
  • Munson, Ronald. Intervention and Reflection: Basic Issues in Medical Ethics. 9th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 2011.
  • Pence, Gregory. Medical Ethics: Accounts of Ground-Breaking Cases. 7th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2014.
  • __________. Re-creating Medicine: Ethical Issues at the Frontiers of Medicine. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2007.
  • Rae, Scott and Paul M. Cox. Bioethics: A Christian Approach in a Pluralistic Age. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999. ***
  • Schaeffer, Francis A., and C. Everett Koop. Whatever Happened to the Human Race? Wheaton: Crossway, 1983. ***
  • Sgreccia, Elio. Personalist Bioethics: Foundations and Applications. Philadelphia: National Catholic Bioethics Center, 2012.
  • Steinbock, Bonnie, John Arras, and Alex John London. Ethical Issues in Modern Medicine: Contemporary Readings in Bioethics. 8th ed. Boston: McGraw-Hill, 2012.
  • Stevens, M.L. Tina. Bioethics in America: Origins and Cultural Politics. Johns Hopkins University Press, 2000.
  • Sugarman, Jeremy and Daniel P. Sulmasy, eds. Methods in Medical Ethics. 2nd ed. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 2010.
  • Vaughn, Lewis.  Bioethics: Principles, Issues, and Cases. 2nd ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 2012.
  • Veatch, Robert M. The Basics of Bioethics. 3rd ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 2011

Out of Print

  • Frame, John M. Medical Ethics: Principles, Persons, and Problems. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1988.
  • Granberg-Michaelson, Karin. In the Land of the Living: Health Care and the Church. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1984. ***
  • Payne, Franklin E., Jr. Biblical/Medical Ethics: The Christian and the Practice of Medicine. Milford, MI: Mott Media, 1985. ***
  • Rothman, David. Strangers at the Bedside. de Gruyter, 2003.
  • Shelly, Judith Allen. Dilemma: A Nurse's Guide for Making Ethical Decisions. Downers Grove: IVP, 1980.
  • Veatch, Robert M. The Basics of Bioethics. 2nd ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 2003.
  • Verhey, Allen D. The Practice of Piety and the Practice of Medicine: Prayer, Scripture, and Medical Ethics. Grand Rapids: Stob Lecture Endowment, 1992. ***

Surveys in Bioethics

These resources address bioethics from particular perspectives and provide individual views and commentary on bioethical issues.

  • Beauchamp, Tom. L., LeRoy Walters, Jeffrey P. Kahn, and Anna C. Mastroianni.  Contemporary Issues in Bioethics. 8th ed.  Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 2013.
  • Caplan, Arthur L., ed. When Medicine Went Mad: Bioethics and the Holocaust. New York: Humana Press, 1992.
  • Caplan, Arthur L. and Robert Arp, eds. Contemporary Debates in Bioethics. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2014.
  • Frame, John M. Medical Ethics: Principles, Persons, and Problems. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1988.
  • Gomez-Lobo, Alfonso. Bioethics and the Human Goods: An Introduction to Natural Law Bioethics. Georgetown University Press, 2015.
  • Green, Ronald M. and Nathan J. Palpant, eds. Suffering and Bioethics. Oxford University Press, 2014.
  • Jonsen, Albert. Bioethics Beyond the Headlines: Who Lives? Who Dies? Who Decides? New York: Rowman & Littlefield, 2005.
  • Koch, Tom. Thieves of Virtue: When Bioethics Stole Medicine. Basic Bioethics. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2012.
  • Lewens, Tim. The Biological Foundations of Bioethics. Oxford University Press, 2015.
  • May, William F. The Physician's Covenant: Images of the Healer in Medical Ethics. 2nd ed. Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2000.
  • Pierce, Jessican and George Randels. Contemporary Bioethics: A Reader with Cases. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009.
  • Ramsey, Paul. The Patient as Person. 2nd ed. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2002.
  • Shelly, Judith Allen, and Arlene B. Miller. Values in Conflict: Christian Nursing in a Changing Profession. Downers Grove: IVP, 1991. ***
  • Singer, Peter and A.M. Viens, eds. The Cambridge Textbook of Bioethics. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008.
  • Talbot, Marianne. Bioethics: An Introduction. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012.
  • VanDrunen, David. Bioethics and the Christian Life: A Guide to Making Difficult Decisions.  Wheaton: Crossway, 2009. ***

Out of Print

  • La Puma, John, and David Schiedermayer. Ethics Consultation: A Practical Guide. Boston: Jones and Bartlett, 1994.
  • Mohrmann, Margaret E. Medicine as Ministry. Cleveland: Pilgrim Press, 1995. ***
  • Ramsey, Paul. Ethics at the Edges of Life: Medical and Legal Intersections. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1980.
  • Rothman, David. Strangers at the Bedside: A History of How Law and Bioethics Transformed Medical Decision Making. Piscataway, NJ: Aldine Transaction, 2003.
  • Snyder, Graydon F. Tough Choices: Health Care Decisions and the Faith Community. Elgin, IL: Brethren, 1988. ***

General Christian Ethics including Bioethics Material

  • Charles, J. Daryl. Retrieving the Natural Law: A Return to Moral First Things. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2008.
  • Davis, John Jefferson. Evangelical Ethics: Issues Facing the Church Today. 3rd ed. Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed, 2004. ***
  • Messer, Neil. Flourishing: Health, Disease, and Bioethics in Theological Perspective. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2013.
  • Feinberg, John S., and Paul D. Feinberg. Ethics for a Brave New World. 2nd ed. Wheaton: Crossway, 2010.  ***
  • Rae, Scott.  Moral Choices: An Introduction to Ethics. 3rd ed. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2009. ***

Out of Print

  • Beckwith, Francis, and Norman L. Geisler. Matters of Life and Death: Calm Answers to Tough Questions About Abortion and Euthanasia. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1991. ***
  • Blocher, Mark. Vital Signs: Decisions That Determine the Quality of Life and Health. Chicago: Moody, 1992.
  • Bouma, Hessel, III, Douglas Diekema, Edward Langerak, Theodore Rottman, and Allen Verhey. Christian Faith, Health, and Medical Practice. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1989. ***
  • Hollman, Jay. ed. New Issues in Medical Ethics. Bristol, TN: Christian Medical and Dental Society, 1995. ***
  • Jones, D. Gareth. Brave New People: Ethical Issues at the Commencement of Life. Rev. ed. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1985. ***
  • Orr, Robert D., David B. Biebel, and David L. Schiedermayer. Life and Death Decisions: Help in Making Tough Choices about Infertility, Abortion, Birth Defects, and AIDS. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1996.
  • Payne, Franklin E., Jr. Biblical Healing for Modern Medicine: Choosing Life and Health or Disease and Death. Augusta, GA: Covenant Enterprises, 1993.  ***
  • __________. Making Biblical Decisions. Escondido, CA: Hosanna House, 1989. ***
  • Schemmer, Kenneth E. Tinkering with People. Wheaton: Victor, 1992.
  • Schiedermayer, David. Putting the Soul Back in Medicine. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1994. ***
  • Shelly, Judith Allen. Dilemma: A Nurse's Guide for Making Ethical Decisions. Downers Grove: IVP, 1980.

Bioethics Collections

These resources are composed of anthologies and multi-author works addressing a wide range of bioethics topics.

  • Eckenwiler, Lisa A. and Felicia G. Cohn, eds. The Ethics of Bioethics: Mapping the Moral Landscape. Baltimore: The John Hopkins University Press, 2007.
  • DeGrazia, David, Thomas Mappes, and Jeffrey Brand-Ballard. Biomedical Ethics. 7th ed. New York: McGraw Hill, 2011.
  • Kilner, John, ed. Why the Church Needs Bioethics. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011.
  • Kilner, John F., C. Christopher Hook, and Diann B. Uustal. Cutting Edge Bioethics: A Christian Exploration of Technologies and Trends. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002. ***
  • Kushe, Helga and Peter Singer, eds. A Companion to Bioethics. 2nd ed. Hershey: Wiley-Blackwell, 2012.
  • LaFollette, Hugh, ed. Ethics in Practice: An Anthology. 4th ed. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2014.
  • Lysaught, M. Therese, Joseph Kotva, and Stephen Lammers, eds. On Moral Medicine: Theological Perspectives on Medical Ethics. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2012. ***
  • Wagner, Viqi. Biomedical Ethics. Detroit: Greenhaven Press, 2008.

Out of Print

  • Allen, David E., Lewis P. Bird, and Robert Herrmann, eds. Whole-Person Medicine: An International Symposium. Downers Grove: IVP, 1980.
  • Brown, Ian L., and Nigel M. de S. Cameron, eds. Medicine in Crisis: A Christian Response. Edinburgh: Rutherford House, 1988. ***
  • Kilner, John F., Nigel M. de S. Cameron, and David L. Schiedermayer, eds. Bioethics and the Future of Medicine: A Christian Appraisal. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995. ***
  • Land, Richard D., and Louis A. Moore, eds. Life at Risk: The Crises in Medical Ethics. Nashville: Broadman and Holman, 1995.
  • Rogers, John, ed. Medical Ethics, Human Choices: A Christian Perspective. Scottdale, PA: Herald, 1988.
  • Schneider, Edward D., ed. Questions about the Beginning of Life: Christian Appraisals. Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1985. ***

*** Designates Christian Resource

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