A Historical Perspective on Medical Ethics
The importance of living a moral life was first documented in the Egyptian Book of the Dead. Ethics has always played a critical role in medicine since the time of Hippocrates. But when crimes against humanity were committed by Nazi physicians in the name of scientific research, medical ethics took on a new significance. This was followed by the biotechnology revolution which, by artificially sustaining life, questioned the definition of human existence which traditional medical ethics was unprepared to resolve. Thus, bioethics emerged as a new form of ethical analysis which could better address the controversies which resulted from the extraordinary advances in technology with an emphasis on patient autonomy and justice. The significance of various historical events, such as the Eugenics movement, the Northwest Kidney Center’s Patient Selection Committee, etc will be discussed in the context by which they influenced the development of present day bioethics.