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DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-L008-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved May 18, 2024, from

Article Summary

While bioethics, a part of applied ethics, is usually identified with medical ethics, in its broadest sense it is the study of the moral, social and political problems that arise out of biology and the life sciences generally and involve, either directly or indirectly, human wellbeing. Thus, environmental and animal ethics are sometimes included within it. In this regard, bioethics can be of broader concern than is either medical/biomedical ethics or the study of the moral problems that arise out of new developments in medical technology.

The interrelated issues of who or what has moral status, of what justifies a certain kind of treatment of one creature as opposed to another, and whether, if a creature has moral status, it can lose it, have proved especially important issues in this broadest sense of bioethics. The philosophical task of probing arguments for soundness appears essential to deciding these issues.

As a part of applied ethics, bioethics is exposed to the difficulty that (1) we do not agree in our moral convictions and principles about many of the cases that feature in bioethics, (2) we do not agree in the moral theories in which our moral principles find their home and by which we try to justify them, and (3) we do not agree in the test(s) of adequacy by which to resolve the disagreements at the level of moral theory. We seem left with no way of deciding between contending principles and theories.

Citing this article:
Frey, R.G.. Bioethics, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-L008-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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