A Historical Perspective on Medical Ethics

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.


Cheryl L. Kunis, M.D. M.Sc., Clinical Professor of Medicine Emerita, Columbia University


Ethics and Clinical Research

“Ethics and Clinical Research” — The 50th Anniversary of Beecher’s Bombshell

Racism and Research: The Case of the Tuskegee Syphilis Study

They Decide Who Lives, Who Dies: Medical Miracle Puts Moral Burden on a Small Committee

Indian Tribe Wins Fight to Limit Research of Its DNA

Experimental Evidence of Massive-Scale Emotional Contagion Through Social Networks


A Historical Perspective on Medical Ethics