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Principles of Biomedical Ethics

Seventh Edition

Tom L. Beauchamp and James F. Childress

Publication Date - October 2012

ISBN: 9780199924585

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

In Stock

Retail Price to Students: $74.95

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


Building on the best-selling tradition of previous editions, Principles of Biomedical Ethics, Seventh Edition, 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.

Illuminating both theory and method throughout, Principles of Biomedical Ethics, Seventh Edition, considers what constitutes moral character and addresses the problem of moral status: what rights are due to people and animals, and when. It also examines the professional-patient relationship, surveys major philosophical theories--including utilitarianism, Kantianism, rights theory, and virtue theory--and describes methods of moral justification in bioethics. 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.


Ch. 1: A clarified and more concise treatment of the common morality and its distinction from both particular moralities and the broad descriptive use of the term "morality"

Ch. 3: New sections on degrees of moral status and the moral significance of moral status

Ch. 4: A revised section on the therapeutic use of placebos and expanded coverage of theories of autonomy and information-processing issues

Ch. 5: New material on historical problems of underprotection and recent problems of overprotection in human subjects research

Ch. 6: A new section on expanded access and continued access in research and a relocated and integrated discussion of surrogate decision making for incompetent patients

Ch. 7: A distinction between traditional theories of justice and more recent theories like capabilities and well-being

Ch. 8: A new section on clinical ethics and research ethics

Ch. 9: A whole new section on virtue theory, which expands the account from Ch. 2 of the previous edition, and on rights theory

Ch. 10: An extended and more in-depth discussion of the authors' theory of method and justification in bioethics

A new Companion Website at www.oup.com/us/beauchamp featuring suggestions for effectively using the book in the classroom, possible syllabi and examination questions, additional readings, useful exercises, and cases for discussion

New to this Edition

  • Clarified and tightened the account of the common morality and its distinction from both particular moralities and the broad descriptive use of the term "morality" in Chapter 1, "Moral Norms"
  • A significant body of material on virtue ethics from Chapter 2 is now in Chapter 9, where the book features a whole new section on virtue theory.
  • New sections on "Degrees of Moral Status," and "The Moral Significance of Moral Status," are now featured in Chapter 3, along with considerably modified the material in the section "Guidelines Governing Moral Status: Putting Specification to Work."
  • Expanded the section on theories of autonomy, completely overhauled the section on "Therapeutic Use of Placebos," and enlarged the section on "Problems of Information Processing" in Chapter 4
  • Added new sections on "Historical Problems of Underprotection" and "Recent Problems of Overprotection" in human subjects research in Chapter 5
  • Chapter 6 now includes a treatment of "Expanded Access and Continued Access in Research," and a relocated and integrated discussion of "Surrogate Decision Making for Incompetent Patients."
  • Chapter 7 now now distinguishes "Traditional Theories of Justice," including utilitarian, libertarian, egalitarian, and communitarian theories from "Recent Theories of Justice."
  • A major new section in Chapter 8, "Clinical Ethics and Research Ethics," investigates the ways in which biomedical research and clinical medicine have been distinguished and how this distinction has affected our thinking about professional ethics and research ethics
  • Extended and deepened the theory of method and justification in bioethics in the two major constructive sections of Chapter 10.
  • A new website features suggestions for effectively using the book in the classroom, possible syllabi and examination questions, additional readings, useful exercises, and cases for discussion.

About the Author(s)

Tom L. Beauchamp is Professor of Philosophy at Georgetown University.

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

Previous Publication Date(s)

May 2008
February 2001


Praise for the previous edition: "The new sixth edition of Principles of Biomedical Ethics is a welcome event. There is nothing else like it in the field of bioethics. It has easily become over the years the most used, most praised, and most distinguished book in the field. Each edition moves beyond the previous ones in important and nuanced ways. Beauchamp and Childress keep up with the ever-changing terrain of bioethics, and work hard to refine their own arguments. It gets better and better. One can hardly ask for more."--Daniel Callahan, Director, International Program, The Hastings Center

"What is by far the best general book on bioethics has gotten even better. The new material on international justice and virtue ethics is especially valuable. Such a combination of accessibility and rigor is rarely attained."--Allen Buchanan, James B. Duke Professor of Philosophy and James B. Duke Professor of Public Policy Studies, Duke University

"This sixth edition of Principles of Biomedical Ethics reaffirms its undisputed stature as a canonical text for the world's bioethicists. It maintains a standard of scholarship and clarity appealing to neophytes and seasoned scholars, to adherents and critics of its principled approach."--Edmund D. Pellegrino, Chairman, President's Council on Bioethics

"The contemporary field of bioethics is unimaginable, absent this text. Principles of Biomedical Ethics provided a paradigmatic approach that shaped the early character of bioethics. It continues to be a source of serious debate regarding the nature of morality and the significance of bioethics. No one can understand the field of bioethics apart from this volume."--H. Tristram Engelhardt, Jr., M.D., Professor, Rice University and Baylor College of Medicine

"Like all of its previous incarnations, this new edition of Principles of Biomedical Ethics offers the reader a window onto the cutting edge of contemporary bioethics. Never content to merely recycle, buff, and slap new covers on old material, Beauchamp and Childress have once again rethought fundamental issues and fully engaged with their critics (including me). Beyond merely contributing to the field of bioethics, PBE has helped to define it."--John D. Arras, Porterfield Professor of Bioethics, University of Virginia

"Every new edition of this classic gets better and better. This is essential reading for all students and scholars of bioethics."--Bernard Lo, M.D., Professor of Medicine and Director, Program in Medical Ethics, University of California, San Francisco

"Principles of Biomedical Ethics has, over six successive editions, clarified and expanded the concepts, definitions, and arguments that make bioethics a discipline instead of random shards of opinion, sometimes astute, sometimes silly, that pass in the media for ethical commentary on medicine and science. This book is the thesaurus of bioethical discourse."--Albert R. Jonsen, Professor Emeritus, Department of Medical History and Ethics, University of Washington

"The sixth edition of Principles of Biomedical Ethics, which more than any other book has helped to shape the field of biomedical ethics, is even better than the previous five editions. Beauchamp and Childress continue to listen to their critics, of whom I am one, and to change their book accordingly. Although I still have some problems with the theory of principlism, I have nothing but admiration for their comprehensive and detailed discussion of the moral problems that arise in the field of medicine."--Bernard Gert, Stone Professor of Intellectual and Moral Philosophy, Dartmouth College

"Anyone with an interest in the field, including all those who have already been influenced by previous editions of Principles of Biomedical Ethics--and who in our field hasn't been, directly or indirectly?--should read the sixth edition. They will find the by-now familiar principles treated in new ways and, more importantly, thoughtful examinations of global health and of the relationship of vulnerability and exploitation to the often-neglected principle of justice. This book is now essential reading not only for those who grapple with clinical dilemmas and the challenges of biomedical research but also for anyone working on the frontiers of public health, where global epidemics and routine surveillance raise some of the most difficult issues in bioethics."--Alexander M. Capron, University Professor, University of Southern California, and Former Director, Ethics, Trade, Human Rights and Health Law, World Health Organization

Table of Contents

    Each chapter ends with a Conclusion.
    1. Moral Norms
    Normative and Nonnormative Ethics
    The Common Morality as Universal Morality
    Particular Moralities as Nonuniversal
    Moral Dilemmas
    A Framework of Moral Norms
    Conflicting Moral Norms
    2. Moral Character
    The Concept of Moral Virtue
    Virtues in Professional Roles
    The 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
    5. Nonmaleficence
    The Concept of Nonmaleficence and the Principle of Nonmaleficence
    Distinctions and Rules Governing Nontreatment
    Optional Treatments and Obligatory Treatments
    Killing and Letting Die
    The Justification of Intentionally Arranged Deaths
    Problems of Group Harm
    Protecting Incompetent Patients
    6. Beneficence
    The Concept of Beneficence and Principles of Beneficence
    Obligatory Beneficence and Ideal Beneficence
    Paternalism: Conflicts between Beneficence and Respect for Autonomy
    Surrogate Decision Making for Incompetent Patients
    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
    Recent Theories of Justice
    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
    Clinical Ethics and Research Ethics
    The Dual Roles of Clinician and Investigator
    9. Moral Theories
    Criteria for Assessing Moral Theories
    Utilitarian Theory
    Kantian Theory
    Rights Theory
    Virtue Theory
    Convergence of Theories
    10. Method and Moral Justification
    Justification in Ethics
    Top-Down Models: Theory and Application
    Bottom-Up Models: Cases and Analogical Reasoning
    Reflective Equilibrium as an Integrated Model
    Common-Morality Theory

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