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Principles of Biomedical Ethics

Eighth Edition

Tom L. Beauchamp and James F. Childress

Publication Date - 01 October 2019

ISBN: 9780190640873

512 pages
6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches

In Stock

The classic work that helped define the field of biomedical ethics, fully updated to include cutting-edge approaches and research


Principles of Biomedical Ethics provides a highly original, practical, and insightful guide to morality in the health professions. Acclaimed authors Tom L. Beauchamp and James F. Childress thoroughly develop and advocate for four principles that lie at the core of moral reasoning in health care: respect for autonomy, nonmaleficence, beneficence, and justice. Drawing from contemporary research--and integrating detailed case studies and vivid real-life examples and scenarios--they demonstrate how these prima facie principles can be expanded to apply to various conflicts and dilemmas, from how to deliver bad news to whether or not to withhold or withdraw life-sustaining treatments.

Ideal for courses in biomedical ethics, bioethics, and health care ethics, the text is enhanced by hundreds of annotated citations and a substantial introduction that clarifies key terms and concepts.

New to this Edition

  • Revisions throughout sharpen arguments, address recent issues raised by critics, and discuss and assess newly published material
  • An expanded presentation on informed consent in Chapter 4
  • Extended discussions of non-treatment, uses of the best-interest standard, quality-of-life decisions involving newborns and children, and physician-assisted dying in Chapter 5
  • More in-depth coverage of theories of justice, problems of health insurance coverage, and the right to health care in Chapter 7
  • Expanded sections on veracity and confidentiality, along with new cases, in Chapter 8
  • More extensive sections on virtue theory and rights theory in Chapter 9
  • Expanded critiques of the theories of justification in Chapter 10


  • The original, accessible, and practical guide to morality in the health care professions for courses in biomedical ethics, bioethics, and health care ethics
  • Argues for and thoroughly develops four principles at the core of moral reasoning in health care: respect for autonomy, nonmaleficence, beneficence, and justice
  • Extends these four principles to apply to a wide variety of conflicts and dilemmas
  • Surveys major philosophical theories in biomedical ethics, including utilitarianism and Kantianism
  • Uses vivid examples from real events and case studies to illuminate theory and method throughout
  • Provides a substantial introduction that clarifies important terms and concepts
  • Includes numerous annotated citations for further reference

About the Author(s)

Tom L. Beauchamp is Professor of Philosophy and Senior Research Scholar at the Kennedy Institute of Ethics at Georgetown University.

James F. Childress is University Professor & John Allen Hollingsworth Professor of Ethics at the University of Virginia.


"What is by far the best general book on bioethics has gotten even better. Such a combination of accessibility and rigor is rarely attained. With each successive edition, this outstanding book gets even better."--Allen Buchanan, Duke University and Dickson Poon School of Law at King's College, London

"How many books can be said to have shaped a field of study for decades, and to have helped institutionalize that field around the world? It is hard to imagine what bioethics would be like without Principles of Biomedical Ethics."--Jonathan Moreno, University of Pennsylvania

"In this excellent revision of their classic work, Beauchamp and Childress deepen their account of common morality and the four clusters of moral principles. Successfully responding to earlier criticisms, the authors provide an illuminating analysis of moral philosophy, in addition to bioethics. This book is a must-read for beginners in the field as well as for more advanced scholars."--Ruth Macklin, Albert Einstein College of Medicine

"The Bible of bioethics. Everyone working in the field should have a copy. Over twenty-five years I have come to realize that these are the four principles of practical ethics. In every analysis, I find myself drawn to using them."--Julian Savulescu, University of Oxford

"Hard to believe, but true. As each time before, this new (now, eighth) edition of the Principles provides considerable benefits over its predecessors: highest quality for newcomers to bioethics; innovative thought for experts; and new material and revision of previous material. What an intellectual achievement!"--Bettina Schöne-Seifert, University of Münster, Germany

"Principles of Biomedical Ethics is one of the enduring and indispensable contributions to bioethics. It is always a valuable source of information and insight for those of us who are veterans in the field, and even more so for those new to the field in the classroom. Its regular updating is itself of great value, catching new issues that appear."--Daniel Callahan, Co-founder of The Hastings Center

"Over the past forty years Beauchamp and Childress's Principles of Biomedical Ethics has become synonymous with bioethics. This venerable text has only gotten better with age. Beauchamp and Childress are to be congratulated for their historic contributions and the exemplary eighth edition, which deserves a place on the shelf of every bioethicist's library."--Joseph Fins, Weill Cornell Medicine and Yale Law School

"Principles of Biomedical Ethics is a standard in the field, and for good reason. With each edition, Beauchamp and Childress focus on not only updating the examples and cases to represent the state of the discipline, but also on refining their arguments and views."--Tracie Mahaffey, Florida State University

"I would rate this book overall as excellent. It's a rare work that is both scholarly and rigorous but also useful as a teaching instrument. The authors' writing is clear and engaging."--Kayhan Parsi, Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine

"I looked long and hard to identify a textbook for the ethics course I teach. I think I have reviewed most of what is available. By far this textbook is the best."--Barbara D'Anna, SUNY Delhi

"The overall quality is exceptional. This classic work has many strengths, not least of which is its comprehensive introductory material on moral foundations; this introduction is one of the strongest introductions to morality of any text (in biomedical ethics and otherwise) I've used."--David Paul, Western Michigan University

Table of Contents

    1. Moral Norms
    Normative and Nonnormative Ethics
    The Common Morality as Universal Morality
    Particular Moralities as Nonuniversal
    Moral Dilemmas
    A Framework of Moral Principles
    Conflicting Moral Norms
    2. Moral Character
    The Concept of Moral Virtue
    Virtues in Professional Roles
    The Central Virtue of Caring
    Five Focal Virtues
    Moral Ideals
    Moral Excellence
    3. Moral Status
    The Problem of Moral Status
    Theories of Moral Status
    From Theories to Practical Guidelines
    The Moral Significance of Moral Status
    Vulnerable Populations and Vulnerable Individuals
    4. Respect for Autonomy
    The Concept of Autonomy and the Principle of Respect for Autonomy
    The Capacity for Autonomous Choice
    The Meaning and Justification of Informed Consent
    Surrogate Decision Making for Nonautonomous Patients
    5. Nonmaleficence
    The Concept and Principle of Nonmaleficence
    Distinctions and Rules Governing Nontreatment Decisions
    Optional Treatments and Obligatory Treatments
    Killing and Letting Die
    Intentionally Arranged Deaths: When, If Ever, Are They Justified?
    Protecting Incompetent Patients from Harm
    Whose Risks and Whose Benefits? Problems of Underprotection and Overprotection in Research
    6. Beneficence
    The Concept of Beneficence and Principles of Beneficence
    Obligatory Beneficence and Ideal Beneficence
    Paternalism: Conflicts between Beneficence and Respect for Autonomy
    Balancing Benefits, Costs, and Risks
    The Value and Quality of Life
    7. Justice
    The Concept of Justice and Principles of Justice
    Traditional Theories of Justice
    Two Theories Closely Connected to the Value of Health
    Fair Opportunity and Unfair Discrimination
    Vulnerability, Exploitation, and Discrimination in Research
    National Health Policy and the Right to Health Care
    Global Health Policy and the Right to Health
    Allocating, Setting Priorities, and Rationing
    8. Professional-Patient Relationships
    The Distinction between Clinical Ethics and Research Ethics
    9. Moral Theories
    Criteria for Assessing Moral Theories
    Utilitarian Theory
    Kantian Theory
    Rights Theory
    Virtue Theory
    The Convergence of Theories on Principles
    10. Method and Moral Justification
    Justification in Ethics
    Top-Down Models: Theory and Application
    Bottom-Up Models: Cases and Analogical Reasoning
    An Integrated Model: Reflective Equilibrium
    Common-Morality Theory

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