Bioethics: Definition, Principle, Issues, Applications

Bioethics: Definition, Principle, Issues, Applications

What do you understand by term Bioethics?

Definition of Bioethics:

Bioethics is the study of ethical problems that arise out of biological and medical developments. It is also moral discernment as far as medical policy and practice are concerned. The issues raised in the ethics of life sciences, biotechnology, medicine and medical ethics and politics, right, theology and philosophy are addressed to bioethics. It includes the study of primary care values and other branches of medicine (“the ordinary ethics”). Ethics also covers numerous other sciences outside the field of biology.

Bioethics 1 - Bioethics: Definition, Principle, Issues, Applications

How did the term Bioethics come into existence?

In the article about the “bioethics imperative” concerning the use of animals and flora in scientific research, Fritz Jahr coined the term “bioethics” in 1926. The US biochemist Van Rensselaer Potter used the term in 1970 to describe the biosphere ‘s relation to a growing population. The work of Potter laid the foundations for global ethics, a discipline based on the relationship between nature, ecology, medicine and human values.

Sargent Shriver, the wife of Eunice Kennedy Shriver, claimed in 1970 in his home’s living room in Bethesda Maryland that he had invented the words “bio-ethics.” He said that after his return from a debate at the University of Georgetown earlier that evening, he thought of the word and discussed with others a potential sponsorship of an institute’s Kennedy family that focuses on applying moral theory to realistic medical dilemmas.

Why do we need Bioethics?

The area of bioethics has covered a wide range of human investigations: range from discussions over life-limiting limits (for example, abortion, euthanasia), surrogacy, allocation of scarce medical resources ( i.e. organ donation, rationing), to the right to refuse medical treatment for religious or cultural reasons. Bioethicists often disagree about the specific limits of their discipline, whether or not the field should focus on the ethical assessment of all biology and medical issues or just a subset of those issues.

Some bioethicists may limit their ethical appraisal to medical practice or engineering values and the timing of human healthcare. Others would extend the scope of ethical assessments to cover the moral aspects of any action which can help or harm fear-friendly organisms.

The bioethics scope can expand with biotechs such as cloning, gene therapy, life extension, human genetic engineering, Astro-ethics and spatial life. Basic biology can also be manipulated by altered DNA, XNA and proteins. Such developments may impact the future and will involve new concepts, such as biotic ethics, which respects and aims to support life in its fundamental biological processes and constructions.

Bioethics: Definition, Principle, Issues, Applications


The topic of human experimentation is one of the first fields explored by modern bioethicists. Originally established in 1974, the National Commission for Human Subject Protection for Biomedical & Behavioral Research was to identify basic ethical principles underlying the conduct of biomedical and behavioural investigations involving human subjects.

But in a wide range of areas of thinking bioethicists have been influenced by the basic principles of the Belmont Report (1979), namely respect for rights, charitable activities and justice. Others added to the list of cardinal values non-malice, human dignity and the sacredness of life. Ultimately, the Belmont Report directed research into the security of vulnerable subjects and the promotion of openness between the researcher and the subject.

Research has flourished in the last 40 years and because of technological developments, the Belmont report is believed to have been outpaced by human subjects and to have to revise.

The emphasis on debate and presentation is another essential concept in bioethics. In universities around the US, there are numerous discussion-based groups in bioethics that support these objectives exactly. The Ohio State Bioethics Society and the Cornell Society of Bioethics are examples of this. These organizations also have professional versions.

The autonomy is the top priority for many bioethicists, in particular medical scientists. They believe that every patient should determine which course of action they consider best. This ensures that patients will still be able to choose their own care.

Bioethics: Definition, Principle, Issues, Applications

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Issues with Bioethics

  • Who owns genetic and medical information?
  • How can gene editing be regulated?
  • Where is the end of the development of human physical or cognitive skills?
  • What about organic disparities that raise the divide between the haves and the not?
  • Can we decide where the limit is to increase life?
  • Do we want to prosecute medical malpractice robots or algorithms?

Unprecedented political, ethical and legal issues arise with the rapid progress of technology. To turn them into substantial discussions will bring us closer step by step to their fair solution.

1. Data Privacy – Medical & Genetical

The main bioethical topic of our era is how data can be handled, specifically, how personal, sensitive medical and genetic data can be processed. How do we secure and exchange confidential data or trade-in them? Should sensitive fitness and medical information be shared with insurers? What if you ate red meat and the insurance provider increased the insurance premiums automatically because you don’t eat healthy enough?

What about genetic and genomic information? What can companies do with your data? If you have already bought a direct-to-consumer genetic test or somewhere else? Can you remove the genetic information, or force companies to disappear? Could companies, research conglomerates or pharmaceutical companies be allowed to purchase or sell such information? What is the cost of the sequenced genome of a single person? Is a price supposed to be there?

Example: GlaxoSmithKline decided in July 2018 to invest $300 million in 23andMe and develop a drug development agreement with Silicon Valley ‘s consumer genetic engineering company in the field of investigation and development of innovative new medicines and potential cures based on human genetics. Ancestry, which operates a genetic information database of more than 5 million users, once partnered with Google’s stealthy spinoff Calico to research ageing.

Caitlin Curtis, the research fellow at Queensland University, estimates the average cost of approximately $130,000,000 for the sale of GSK genotype access, averaging around $130,000,000 before the GSK deal. That means you could have purchased your genetic details for an average of $100-150 for a further $130 if you ordered a 23andMe genetic test.

2. Cyber attacks & Data Security

Remember the World Cyber Scandal that infected 300,000 computers in 150 countries with hackers? This also disrupted the United Kingdom National Health Service ( NHS). UK hospitals have been shut down after malware pirated the networks and has had to turn away patients with no emergency care needs. That was the complete and utter failure of the IT infrastructure for safety.

Not only have hospitals doubled in cybersecurity since this attack, but Microsoft has also taken information security as seriously as ever. The ransomware used a vulnerability that Microsoft had developed for 2 months, but several organisations — like hospitals — did not upgrade their systems properly before the attack. But the updates are all right? And since then, have major medical institutions or technology companies that deal with vulnerable data done homework? Although they should, it doesn’t seem that way!

Recently, the healthcare technology company Meditab, based in California, was leaking thousands of medical notes and medications every day after leaving a fax server with no password for safety lapse.

The safety of medical devices is also not a rosy situation. At a conference in Miami, a McAfee research company showed in 2011 how insulin pumps could be pumped to fatal doses in patients who suffer from diabetes. Homeland Security has warned against a series of critical vulnerabilities of Medtronic defibrillators that put the devices at risk of manipulation, according to the latest news.

3. Bioterrorism

The sensitivity of medical and genetic data is mainly due to fears that they may be in the wrong hands – and nothing can be done to counter a possible attack at this point. While wrongdoers must have very advanced skills, the risks are extremely low, there are some specialists who are concerned that accurate bioterrorism might appear in addition to accurate medicines and targeted treatments.

That would mean that attackers could select a target group and tailor their biologic assault to their genetic make-up or medical data based on genetic markers or some other biological markers. As your passwords or credit cards can’t alter your genome, anyone could be totally defenceless against such an attack.

Some FBI agents have been worried about medical data for precision medicine that render the United States vulnerable to this sort of scenario.

Along with that, we could be absolutely assailable by hacking medical equipment, whole infrastructures and networks, managing implants, digital tattoos or robots. As in the distance, nanoscale robots could live in our bloodstream or on our eyeballs, some people believe that full surveillance will be possible with these small devices – because nothing can be concealed if a robot swims in your body flows. Let us do all we can to tackle these risks and develop defensive measures as quickly as possible.

4. Sex and Technology

Kisses, hugs, and caresses long distances. Pornstars virtual reality. The world’s oldest profession is threatened by sex robots. Life-sized dolls for technology. It is time for the beginning of a new sexual revolution when technology can take the innermost part of our lives, where humanity will take this, where our frontiers are and whether we want them.

According to Jenna Owsianik and Ross Dawson ‘s Future of Sex studies, haptic corps suits or social networking sites enhanced by sensual touch interfaces will soon completely allow long-distance, tactile sex between lovers and/or crochet partners thousands of miles away. Not to mention the choice of intimate video chats that combine distant sex devices with holographic partners. The authors even estimate that in 10 years!) (by 2028 there will be a long-term sexual experience for over one-quarter of the young people. By 2025, the body parts printed in 3D will make the sex game more practical.

In addition, robots that look like sex partners are the other innovation lines. Some futurists have talked about human-robot sex being more popular by 2050. But do you think you have sex with a remote program or a robot? And what if there’s anything going wrong? Do you see any news headlines like Woman Sues Robotics Company to break her leg during sex with a robot,” which seems to be impossible right now?

Bioethicists should bring together all types of stakeholders in order to see a vibrant range of opinions which could allow the development of future ethical, moral or even legal rules for each bioethics issue. This doesn’t simply mean formal discussions. Let ‘s talk at home and at work and on public forums about these bioethics topics. We should thus train ourselves to harness the benefits of technology while maintaining the possible dangers.

Bioethics: Definition, Principle, Issues, Applications

Application of Bioethics in different fields

Clinical Ethics

Clinical ethics is a practical discipline designed to resolve ethical issues or discrepancies that arise in medical practice. Medical ethicists define, evaluate and address conflicts of values resulting from disputes or confusion between the ethically correct course of action of their practitioners, patients, families, surrogates and others. For instance, patients or their surrogates may refuse recommended treatments or require unprofitable treatments that conflict with the medical judgement of the provider.

Clinical ethicists are instrumental in defining and clarifying ethical problems, determining the ethically appropriate course of action and promoting truthful, respectful contact with all parties. Medical ethics also strengthens institutionality through awareness and policy preparation in reacting to ethical dilemmas. Bioethics: Definition, Principle, Issues, Applications


A great deal of medicine today is concerned with genetics, for the prevention, diagnosis, treatment and decision-making of diseases. Numerous conflicts of value are caused by emerging genetic technologies and knowledge. Bioethicists, therefore, ask what is ethical if there is a mutation for a serious and now untreatable genetic disorder. Were these people ethically needed to surrender their rights to privacy and warn vulnerable families?

Which ethical obligations do parents have to take into account the best interests of future possible children if and how they should have children, where complete genome sequencing shows that these children are seriously at risk? Such decisions should be governed by social policies? Should such policies preserve parental child-rearing rights or enhance social responsibility for the best interests of those potential future children? This is genomics age bioethics.

Health Policy

Government efforts to manage public health care are a matter of health policy. The government must ensure that everyone has access to necessary health care, stimulate curative research, safeguard the quality of health and monitor health care costs. In view of the massive public expenditure in developing our health system, Justice is the moral principle most applicable to health policy. Do bioethicists, therefore, ask whether it is just the willingness of a state legislature to adequately finance the Medicaid for the poor that should be given to an individual’s access to the necessary, costly and effective care?

Should genetically healthy and fortunate help pay for the genetically unhealthy and unfortunate costs of health care? Such problems must be addressed by a fair and compassionate community by means of a proper bioethics inquiry and meaningful democratic debate.


As our understanding, measurement and manipulation of the functioning of the human brain and system progress rapidly, so also do our need to deal with these tools and neuroscientific knowledge, the ethical, social and legal implications. Neuroethics is an interdisciplinary field of research involving the systematization, defence and recommendation of ways of dealing with these problems. Neuroethics is also a platform for interacting with the future of neuroscience and neurotechnology among different stakeholders.

This forum is theoretical but also scientific and realistic in the area of neuroimages, such as the usage of neuroenhancement drugs, memory damping devices, neural prostheses, neuroimaging clinical and non-clinical use and policy issues in terms of neurotechnology. Theoretical and analytical questions about how we think and treat each other are illustrated in neuroethics.

Precision Medicine

The treatment of precision is also ethically questionable. Precision medical drugs cover very expensive cancer medicines intended to resolve metastatic cancer ‘s genetic engines. In the United States, ninety of these medicines are approved by the FDA, with an annual price of $100,000 or more and certain cell therapies at the price of $475,000. Some of these medicines are very efficient. Imatinib (Gleevec) will yield more than 10 additional years of life for 70% of these patients for chronic myeloid leukaemia but at $135,000 a year.

Yet most only yield additional life months at very high rates. One objective of precision medicine is to identify biomarkers that predict the efficacy of people. So what? Do we refuse treatment to patients who are (not sure) likely to benefit no more than 3 additional months? Is this restriction just or careful? This is legal uncertainty.

Reproductive Ethics

The subjects of reproductive ethics are often socially and juridically controversial and closely related to reproductive justice concerns. The area explores issues of support for fertility (assisted reproduction, sexual surrogacy, the genetic handling of offspring), restriction of fertility (contraception and sterilisation), end of pregnancy (abortion), access to and children and concerns regarding maternal and fetal interests more broadly.

The question of reproductive ethics is perplexing: Should we be able to reproduce after people die? Can we keep a pregnant brain-dead person living to allow their child to be born or collect the death sperm? Will we manipulate our descendent ‘s DNA not only to delete whole genetic disorders but also perhaps to select superficial characteristics, such as intellect or athletic capabilities? The focus is on reproductive ethics, and more.

Research Ethics

Research ethics deals with a range of ethnic challenges and questions arising in research, inhuman or animal science, in clinics or in fundamental sciences, many of which are not regulated. For example, in human research the distinction between “identifiable” and “non-identifiable.” Informed consent is not required for research using data whose human sources are not identifiable.

But as the amount and variety of data (including genetic data) collected around one person grow, as happens in big data research, the less anonymous the source is guaranteed. Then the question is if the data is sufficiently “non-identifiable.” The nature and extent of the risks must be balanced against the benefits of research.

Bioethics: Definition, Principle, Issues, Applications

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Rajat Singh
Rajat Singh is the chief Author at Bioinformatics India, he has been writing for the past 3 years and has a special interest in SEO, Technology, Health, Life Sciences and gaming.

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