Clinical & Medical Ethics


The ethics of the relationship between physicians and patients has been explored since the establishment of the Hippocratic Oath in the 4th century BC. Ethical issues addressed in clinical and medical ethics include the right of conscience for healthcare professionals, the role of the professional in decision-making, patient autonomy, and informed consent particularly as they find expression in the daily practice of medicine. Additionally, this section includes practical Christian analysis of care issues that arise at the bedside. For resources exploring the broader topics of healthcare allocation and economics, as well as models of healthcare delivery, please see our healthcare resources.


  • Michael Sleasman, “Bioethics Past, Present, and Future: Important Signposts in Human Dignity” (An overview of bioethics and the breadth of issues it encompasses).
  • Lauris Kaldjian, “Practicing Medicine and Ethics.”
  • Susan Haack, “The Promises and Perils of Technological Progress in Healthcare.”
  • Robert Orr, “Competence, Capacity, and Surrogate Decision-Making.”
  • Robert Orr, “Addressing Issues of Moral Complicity: When? Where? Why? and Other Questions.”
  • Allen Roberts, “Futility Recast: Do New Consensus Statements Resolve the Old Debate?”
  • Edward Grant, “Cruzan at 25, Schiavo at 10: Legal Fictions It Is Time to Outgrow.”
  • For analysis of specific cases and questions within clinical & medical ethics, see our case studies.


Allocation & Managed Care

See related materials in the Healthcare Ethics Bibliography

  • Bhatia, Neera. Critically Impaired Infants and End of Life Decision Making: Resource Allocation and Difficult Decisions. New York: Routledge, 2015.
  • Callahan, Daniel. Taming the Beloved Beast: How Medical Technology Costs Are Destroying Our Health Care System. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2009.
  • Camosy, Charles. Too Expensive to Treat? Finitude, Tragedy, and the Neonatal ICU. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2010.
  • Crippen, David W., ed. ICU Resource Allocation in the New Millenium. New York: Springer, 2013.
  • Danis, Marion, Samia A. Hurst, Len Fleck, Reidun Forde, and Anne Slowther, eds. Fair Resource Allocation and Rationing at the Bedside. Oxford University Press, 2015.
  • Jox, Ralf J., Galia Assadi, and Georg Marckmann, eds. Organ Transplantation in Times of Donor Shortage: Challenges and Solutions. New York: Springer, 2016.
  • Kilner, John. Life on the Line: Ethics, Aging, Ending Patient’s Lives, and Allocating Vital Resources. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1992.***
  • Kilner, John F., Robert D. Orr, and Judith Allen Shelly, eds. The Changing Face of Health Care: A Christian Appraisal of Managed Care, Resource Allocation, and Patient-Caregiver Relationships. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998.
  • Nelson, James Lindemann, ed. Rationing Sanity: Ethical Issues in Managed Mental Health Care. Georgetown University Press, 2003.
  • Rodwin, Marc A. Medicine, Money, and Morals: A Physician’s Conflict of Interest. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993.
  • Verheijde, Joseph L. Managing Care: A Shared Responsibility. New York: Springer, 2010.

Case-Based Resources

  • Ashcroft, Richard, Anneke Lucassen, Michael Parker, Marian Verkerk and Guy Widdershoven, eds. Case Analysis in Clinical Ethics.  New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005.
  • Devettere, Raymond J. Practical Decision Making in Health Care Ethics: Cases and Concepts. 2nd ed. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 2000.
  • Diekema, Douglas S., Mark R. Mercurio, and Mary B. Adam, eds. Clinical Ethics in Pediatrics: A Case-Based Textbook. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011.
  • Ford, Paul J. and Denise M. Dudzinski, eds. Complex Ethics Consultations: Cases that Haunt Us. Cambridge University Press, 2008.
  • Freeman, John M. and Kevin McDonnell. Tough Decisions: Cases in Medical Ethics. 2nd ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 2001.
  • Hark, Lisa and Horace DeLisser, eds. Achieving Cultural Competency: A Case-Based Approach to Training Health Professionals. Hoboken, N.J.: Blackwell Publishing, 2009.
  • Johnston, Carolyn and Penelope Bradbury. 100 Cases in Clinical Ethics and Law. 2nd ed. Boca Raton, Fla.: CRC Press, 2015.
  • Orr, Robert D. Medical Ethics and the Faith Factor: A Handbook for Clergy and Health Care Professionals. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2010.***
  • Pence, Gregory E. Medical Ethics: Accounts of Ground-Breaking Cases. 7th ed. New York: McGraw Hill, 2014.
  • Snyder, John E. and Candace C. Gauthier. Evidence-Based Medical Ethics: Cases for Practice-Based Learning. Totowa, N.J.: Humana Press, 2008.

General Medical Ethics

  • Beauchamp, Tom L., and James F. Childress. Principles of Biomedical Ethics. 7th ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 2012.
  • Boylan, Michael. Medical Ethics. 2nd ed. Malden, Mass.: John Wiley & Sons, 2014.
  • Colt, Henri G., Silvia Quadrelli, and Lester D. Friedman. The Picture of Health: Medical Ethics and the Movies. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011.
  • Edge, Raymond S., and John Randall Groves. Ethics of Health Care: A Guide for Clinical Practice. Clifton Park, NY: Delmar Cengage Learning, 2005.
  • Fletcher, John C., Edward Spencer, and Paul Lombardo, eds. Fletcher’s Introduction to Clinical Ethics, 3rd ed. Hagerstown, MD: University Publishing Group, 2005.
  • Fremgen, Bonnie F. Medical Law and Ethics. 5th ed. Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 2015.
  • Hope, Tony. Medical Ethics: A Very Short Introduction. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004.
  • Jonsen, Albert R., Mark Siegler, and William J. Winslade. Clinical Ethics: A Practical Approach to Ethical Decisions in Clinical Medicine. 7th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill Medical, 2010.
  • Jonsen, Albert R. A Short History of Medical Ethics. New York: Oxford University Press, 2008.
  • Junkerman, Charles, Arthur Derse, and David Schiedermayer. Practical Ethics for Students, Interns and Residents: A Short Reference Manuel. 3rd ed. Hagerstown, MD: University Publishing Group, 2008.
  • Lo, Bernard. Resolving Ethical Dilemmas: A Guide for Clinicians. 5th ed. Baltimore: Lippincott, 2013.
  • Morrison, Eileen E. and Beth Furlong. Health Care Ethics: Critical Issues for the 21st Century. 3rd ed. Burlington, Mass.: Jones & Bartlett, 2013.
  • Munson, Ronald. Intervention and Reflection: Basic Issues in Medical Ethics, 8th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing, 2007
  • O’Rourke, Kevin. Medical Ethics: Sources of Catholic Teachings. 4th ed. Georgetown University Press, 2011.
  • Pellegrino, Edmund, H. Tristram Engelhardt, Jr., and Fabrice Jotterand, eds. The Philosophy of Medicine Reborn: A Pellegrino Reader. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame, 2008.
  • Sugarman, Jeremy and Daniel P. Sulmasy. Methods in Medical Ethics. 2nd ed. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 2010.
  • Tomlinson, Tom. Methods in Medical Ethics: Critical Perspectives. Oxford University Press, 2012.

Out of Print

  • Orr, Robert D., and Fred Chay. Medical Ethics: A Primer for Students; A Small-group Study for Medical and Dental Students. Bristol, TN: Paul Tournier Institute, 2000.***

Patient Autonomy and the Role of the Physician

  • Bergsma, J. and D.C. Thomasma. Autonomy and Clinical Medicine: Renewing the Health Professional Relation with the Patient. Norwell, Mass.: Kluwer Academic, 2000.
  • Churchill, Larry R., Joseph B. Fanning, and David Schenck. What Patients Teach: The Everyday Ethics of Health Care. Oxford University Press, 2013.
  • Herbert, Phillip C. Doing Right: A Practical Guide to Ethics for Medical Trainees and Physicians. 2nd ed.  New York: Oxford University Press, 2009.
  • King, N. M. Making Sense of Advance Directives. Springer, 2013.
  • May, William F. The Physician's Covenant: Images of the Healer in Medical Ethics. 2nd ed. Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2000.***
  • McLean, Sheila A.M., ed. Autonomy, Consent, and the Law. New York: Routledge, 2010.
  • Miller, Frank, and Alan Wertheimer. The Ethics of Consent: Theory and Practice. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009.
  • Olick, Robert S. Taking Advance Directives Seriously. Georgetown University Press, 2004.
  • Pellegrino, Edmund D., and David C. Thomasma. The Christian Virtues in Medical Practice. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 1996.***
  • Stewart, Moira, Judith Belle Brown, W. Wayne Weston, et al. Patient-Centered Medicine: Transforming the Clinical Method. 3rd ed. London: Radcliffe Publishing, 2014.
  • Sulmasy, Daniel P. The Healer's Calling: A Spirituality for Physicians and Other Health Care Professionals. Mahwah, NJ: Paulist, 1997.***
  • Tauber, Alfred I. Patient Autonomy and the Ethics of Responsibility. Basic Bioethics. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2005.
  • Thomasma, David, and Judith Lee Kissell, eds. The Health Care Professional as Friend and Healer: Building on the Work of Edmund Pellegrino. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 2000.
  • Traphagan, John W. Rethinking Autonomy: A Critique of Principlism in Biomedical Ethics. Albany State University of New York Press, 2013.
  • Veatch, Robert M. Patient, Heal Thyself: How the “New Medicine” Puts the Patient in Charge. Oxford University Press, 2009.

Specialty-Specific Medical Ethics

  • Benner, Patricia. Christine A. Tanner, and Catherine A. Chesla. Expertise in Nursing Practice: Caring, Clinical Judgment, and Ethics. 2nd ed. New York: Springer, 2009.
  • Bosek, Marcia SueDeWolf and Teresa A. Savage. The Ethical Component of Nursing Education: Integrating Ethics into Clinical Experience. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2006.
  • Bruce, Courtenay R., Mary A. Majumder, Trevor Bibler, et al. A Practical Guide to Developing & Sustaining a Clinical Ethics Consultation Service. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform and Baylor College of Medicine, 2015.
  • Burkhardt, Margaret A. and Alvita K. Nathaniel. Ethics & Issues in Contemporary Nursing. 4th ed. Stamford, Conn.: Cengage Learning, 2014.
  • Cassidy, Barry A. and J. Dennis Blessing. Ethics and Professionalism: A Guide for the Physician Assistant. Philadelphia: F.A. Davis Company, 2008.
  • French, William A. Case Profiles in Respiratory Care. 2nd ed. Clifton Park, N.Y.: Delmar Cengage Learning, 2000.
  • Hester, D. Micah and Toby Schonfeld, eds. Guidance for Healthcare Ethics Committees. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012.
  • Lantos, John D. The Lazarus Case: Life-and-Death Issues in Neonatal Intensive Care. Johns Hopkins University Press, 2007.
  • Pope, Kenneth S. and Melba J.T. Vasquez. Ethics in Psychotherapy and Counseling. 5th ed. Hoboken, N.J.: Wiley, 2016.
  • Post, Linda Farber and Jeffrey Blustein. Handbook for Health Care Ethics Committees. 2nd ed. Johns Hopkins University Press, 2015.
  • Shelly, Judith Allen, and Arlene B. Miller. Called to Care: A Christian Worldview for Nursing. Downers Grove: IVP, 2006.***
  • Van Norman, Gail A., ed. Clinical Ethics in Anesthesiology: A Case-Based Textbook. Cambridge University Press, 2011.
  • Williams, Michael A., ed. Practical Ethics in Clinical Neurology: A Case-Based Learning Approach. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2012.

Out of Print

  • Orlowski, James P. Ethics in Critical Care Medicine.  Hagerstown, MD: University Publishing Group, 2005.
  • Ross, Judith Wilson. Handbook for Hospital Ethics Committees. American Hospital Publishing, 1986.

For additional related material see the End of Life, Global Bioethics, Healthcare Ethics, Organ Donation & Transplantation, Public Health, Reproductive Ethics, and Women's Health Bibliographies.

*** Designates Christian Resource

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