Background on Bioethics


What is bioethics?

Bioethics is a branch of applied ethics and philosophy that focuses on the study of ethical issues that arise as a consequence of advancements in one or more of the life sciences (a life science is any branch of science that involves the scientific study of living organisms). Bioethicists are concerned with the study and application of principles as they relate to advancements in the life sciences (especially medical practice, public health, and health/research policy).

Why should we care about bioethics?

The study and application of bioethics has influenced important changes in
today’s standards for treating patients and conducting research. For instance,
today clinicians recognize that patients have a right to consent to as well as
refuse different medical treatments. Additionally, researcher now understand
the rights of research participants and that review boards are integral
to evaluate and enforce ethical standards for research protocol.

Technological advancements create unprecedented questions, and bioethics can provide the tools for approaching these questions in uncharted territory.  What, for example, do scientists or politicians decide people do with “leftover” embryos created in fertility labs? Economic questions in bioethics are just as challenging. The USA is able to hire doctors and nurses away from the world’s poorest countries – but is this ethically permissible? And if so, by what standards and principles can it be justified?

Questions in bioethics are multidimensional and draw on numerous disciplines
such as medicine, biology, genetics, neuroscience, bioengineering, sociology,
and psychology— and hence numerous methodologies inform the answers to
bioethical questions that make a true impact in people’s lives. Policy, standards
for clinical practice, and personal decision making in bioethics have influenced
our lives and health at one point or another.

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