Principles of Biomedical Ethics

ISBN: 0195143329
ISBN 13: 9780195143324
By: Tom L. Beauchamp James F. Childress

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About this book

This edition represents a thorough-going revision of what has become a classic text in biomedical ethics. Major structural changes mark the revision. The authors have added a new concluding chapter on methods that, along with its companion chapter on moral theory, emphasizes convergence across theories, coherence in moral justification, and the common morality. They have simplified the opening chapter on moral norms which introduces the framework of prima facie moral principles and ways to specify and balance them. Together with the shift of advanced material on theory to the back of the book, this heavily revised introductory chapter will make it easier for the wide range of students entering bioethics courses to use this text. Another important change is the increased emphasis on character and moral agency, drawing the distinction between agents and actions. The sections on truth telling, disclosure of bad news, privacy, conflicts of interest, and research on human subjects have also been thoroughly reworked. The four core chapters on principles (respect for autonomy, nonmaleficence, beneficence, and justice) and the chapter on professional-patient relationships retain their familiar structure, but the authors have completely updated their content to reflect developments in philosophical analysis as well as in research, medicine, and health care. Throughout, they have used a number of actual cases to illuminate and to test their theory, method, and framework of principles.

Reader's Thoughts

Jean Schulte

Very dry, but what do you expect, it is a textbook. We just finished our module on respect for autonomy and I do have a quote that sticks in my head concerning the best interest standard (principle for a surrogate decision maker for a formerly competent person): "Best interest judgments are meant to focus attention entirely on the value of life for the person who must live it not on the value the person's life has for others." How true.


Principlism 101, if you need to start somewhere on the subject, start here. However I don't really adhere to the train of thought, so while I have no qualms with the quality of this book, I'm not mindblown by the content.

Brenda Srof

I read this book in preparation for the Bioethics Institute at Georgetown. This is indeed one of the most classic pieces of literature in bioethics.


A well written introduction to the interdisciplinary field of medical ethics. It contains both theory and application that can be implemented in medical review boards as well as hospital ethics committees. However, applying these principles does require a basic understanding of philosophy and law; relative to medicine. My advice: I recommend potential readers to understand the philosophy of medicine before actually reading Beauchamp. It will certainly help you critically analyze the logic of medicine. Very powerful!!!

Lane Wilkinson

I decided to use this book for my Biomedical Ethics course. One-third of the way through the course, I have decided that this is a fine introduction to Biomedical Ethics. The approach is rooted in principlism, detailing what the authors deem the four main principles of Biomedical Ethics (autonomy, non-maleficence, benificence, and justice). I admit that I find the layout of the book somewhat unsatisfactory:(1) The chapters on general, normative ethical theories appear at the end of the book.(2) The aretaic turn is reduced to a watered-down "Ethics of Care"(3) Social Contract Theory is (seemingly) favored, under the guises of "Liberal Individualism" and "Communitarianism".I'll fill in more as the semester progresses...


I read this for a Bioethics course in college. Would really like to revisit and re-read before I start seeing patients :)


the authors tried to explain main ethical principles in this book, but I think it does not have adequate structure.


Very much a textbook... I learned a lot, but it isn't light reading for a non-philosophy student!

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