Skip to Main Content

Bioethics: Welcome

Study of the ethics, processes, and people which constitute the maintenance of health for human beings. Consists of the theological, philosophical, medical, scientific, and legal aspects of these issues. This guide is primarily from a Catholic viewpoint.

What is Bioethics?

"Bioethics is the study of the ethical, social, legal, philosophical, and other related issues arising in health care and in the biological sciences' (IAB 2008; Chadwick 2007, p. ii). Bioethics is interdisciplinary in nature and draws from diverse sources to bring ethical reflection to bear upon a range of issues and questions in medicine and the biomedical sciences."

New Catholic Encyclopedia. Supplement 2009 [electronic resource]. Detroit: Gale in association with the Catholic University of America, 2009, 87.

"One may define bioethics generally as follows: the systematic exercise, study, and methodology of responsible agents and actions in the life sciences (e.g., biology) and healing arts (e.g., medicine).  The Oxford English Dictionary defines bioethics as, 'The discipline dealing with ethical questions that arise as a result of advances in medicine and biology.'  A biologist by the name of Van Rensselaer Potter first used the term to refer 'to a new field devoted to human survival and an improved quality of life, not necessarily or particularly medical in character.'  In 1977, the philosopher Samuel Gorovitz defined bioethics as the 'critical examination of the moral dimensions of decision-making in health-related contexts and in contexts involving the biological sciences.'  This definition is still a good  one for it highlights the interdisciplinary and social dimensions of bioethics.  It points us in the right direction as we enter the fascinating but complex world of bioethics."

An Introduction to Bioethics. Shannon, Thomas A. and Nicholas J. Kockler. 4th revised edition. New York: Paulist Press, 2009, 8.

Getting Started


National Catholic Bioethics Center (NCBC), established in 1972, conducts research, consultation, publishing and education to promote human dignity in health care and the life sciences, and derives its message directly from the teachings of the Catholic Church.  NCBC publishes The National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly.

American Medical Association (AMA) Ethics Resources

Bioethics Information Resources - NLM® and NIH Electronic Resources

Markkula Center for Applied Ethics: Bioethics (Santa Clara University)

National Center for Ethics in Health Care (U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs)

Online Reference Sources

Pope John Paul II

Catholic News Agency

The Catholic News Agency (CNA) is a provider of news related to Catholicism to an English speaking audience worldwide.


Profile Photo
Kathryn Burke
O’Shaughnessy-Frey Library | LIB 117
651 962-5027

Online Background Information

Guides by other UST librarians