Bioethics Definitions

Autonomy: “personal rule of the self that is free from both controlling interferences by others and from personal limitations that prevent meaningful choice” (Pantilat 2008).

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Non-maleficence: Not intending to cause harm to others — ‘to do no harm’ according to Hippocratic principles

Beneficence: “Beneficence is action that is done for the benefit of others. Beneficent actions can be taken to help prevent or remove harms or to simply improve the situation of others” (Pantilat 2008).

Fidelity: Being faithful to the commitment made to one’s professional ethics and to the patient under care

Reparation: Making someone ‘whole’ again, after an injury has been done, or making amends in a way to specifically address the harms that were done by the perpetrator’s wrong

Palliative care: Care focused upon relieving the pain of patients suffering from serious illnesses, versus curing them

Meta-ethics: The branch of ethics that strives to understand the principles behind ethical systems, versus practical questions

Normative ethics: The study of ethics in practice

Justice: Treating patients fairly and equitably, regardless of who they are (including their ability to pay, race or ethnicity, gender, age, etcetera).

Falsification: According to Popper, for a statement to be considered scientific truth, it must be falsifiable (able to be proven false)

Fabrication: Falsifying data or other evidence for nefarious purposes such as self-enrichment

Ethics: Formal systems by which individuals make decisions about right and wrong

Morality: The ideas about right and wrong established by consensus over time with in a society

Virtue ethics: Ethics that focuses upon building a good character to generate good actions

Deontological: Ethical worldview that focuses upon obeying timeless principles applicable to all occasions

Utilitarianism: Ethical system that focuses in doing the greatest good for the greatest number of people

Consequentialism: Ethical system that focuses on the consequences of actions, versus their intentions

Advanced directive: A medical directive issued detailing what should be done if the person is no longer capable of making decisions for him or herself

Medical power of attorney: “a document, signed by a competent adult, i.e., “principal,” designating a person that the principal trusts to make health care decisions on the principal’s behalf should the principal be unable to make such decisions. The individual chosen to act on the principal’s behalf is referred to as an agent” (Medical power of attorney, 1999, Texas Medical Association)

Ethical egoism: The idea that the ethical agent’s first responsibility is to act in his or her own self-interest

Ethical altruism: The idea that people have a moral obligation to help others

Pluripotent: “Pluripotent cells can give rise to all of the cell types that make up the body; embryonic stem cells are considered pluripotent” (What is the difference between totipotent, pluripotent, and multipotent, 2013, NY State stem cell science).

Totipotent: “Totipotent cells can form all the cell types in a body, plus the extraembryonic, or placental, cells” (What is the difference between totipotent, pluripotent, and multipotent, 2013, NY State stem cell science).

Therapeutic cloning: Cloning specific cells to heal patients and replace damaged cells or organs, not to create whole, new human (or animal) entities

Applied ethics: Specific, philosophical debates such as abortion or euthanasia to which ethical systems may be applied (Ethics, 2013, Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy).

Euthanasia: intentionally ending someone’s life, usually for medical reasons (such as to prevent suffering).

Q2. Describe the various types of euthanasia:

Active euthanasia: Deliberately ending someone’s life through the administration of drugs or other means

Voluntary euthanasia: The patient ‘actively’ participates in the act of euthanasia

Non-voluntary euthanasia: Euthanasia when the patient cannot explicitly consent to the action

Q3. Describe the different definitions of death. Which do you support and why?

“The most traditional way to tell if someone is dead has been to see if their heart is beating and if their lungs are breathing,” but this is problematic given that many patients continue to live with artificial assistance to help their lungs and heart continue to function (Cline 2013). Brain death means a person can only function with technological intervention: “even though a person might suffer from whole brain death, he can still have a heartbeat which only ends due to the failure of the lungs. If the lungs are forced to keep breathing, such people can continue to digest food, excrete waste, and even bear children” (Cline 2013). In the case of total brain death, “the cessation of functioning in those parts of the brain responsible for consciousness and higher reasoning powers is necessary for the death of the ‘person’ aspect of the brain and body” has occurred (Cline 2013).

Q4. Belmont report principles

The 1979 Belmont report was intended to define “the boundaries between biomedical and behavioral research and the accepted and routine practice of medicine;” risk-benefit criteria in research involving humans and appropriate guidelines for research involving human beings and “the nature and definition of informed consent in various research settings” (Belmont, 1979, HHS).

Q5. Present, explain and evaluate at least one argument in favor of thinking that many abortions are not morally wrong.

No human being should be forced to harbor another human being against her will: a woman cannot be forced to endure the risks of pregnancy. For example, no one can be forced to donate a kidney to someone so the donor can survive, similarly the mother cannot be compelled to give up her body any more than one can be compelled to donate a kidney to save someone’s life (Thomson 1996).

Q6. For each of the thinkers below, identify by indicating pro-or con whether you believe the thinker would be in favor (pro) or against (con) the proposition above. In the space available to the right of the individual’s name, justify your selection in two or three carefully constructed, legible sentences.

Immanuel Kant: The principle of autonomy holds true in all instances. Thus in upholding this moral principle it is a sound notion that a woman does not compromise her autonomy, even if she becomes pregnant.

Aristotle: Ultimately, the woman’s good character, honed through ethical decision-making should allow her to determine whether abortion is moral or immoral. A good character will produce a good decision.

John Stuart Mill: Regardless, the greatest good for the greatest number suggests that allowing abortion is permissible, given the negative consequences of making it illegal. Given that abortions will inevitably occur in the form of back alley abortions, allowing legal abortion promotes the general good.

Q7. Compare first and second order reasons for abortion?

“First order reasons are reasons of justifications which may plausibly justify an abortion, for example, (i) rape, (ii) endangerment of the woman’s life, and (iii) a serious mentally or physically disabled fetus. Second order reasons are reasons of justifications which are, in comparison to first order reasons, less suitable in providing a strong justification for abortion, for example, (i) a journey, (ii) career prospects, (iii) by virtue of financial or social grievances” (Abortion, 2013, IEP). This notion of first and second order reasons, however, seems to penalize the woman for getting pregnant and not having ‘good’ reasons for having an abortion — as if the ‘risk’ of sexual intercourse means that she may effectively be forced into pregnancy, as the implication is that second order reasons are less valid.


Abortion. (2013). Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved:

Belmont Report. (1979). HHS. Retrieved:

Cline, Austin. (2013). When and how should a person be declared dead?

Ethics. (2013). Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved:

Medical power of attorney. (1999). Texas Medical Association. Retrieved:

Pantilat, Steven. (2008). Autonomy vs. beneficence. UCSF. Retrieved:

Thomson, Judith Jarvis. (1971). A defense of abortion. From Philosophy & Public Affairs, 1. 1.


What is the difference between totipotent, pluripotent, and multipotent? (2013). NY State stem cell science. Retrieved: http://stemcell.ny.