Bioethics: A guide to experts and resources

Americans are confronting challenges in bioethics every day and in every venue, from hospital rooms and research labs to Congress and the Supreme Court. Developments in genetics, debates over the beginning of life and the fate of embryos, and technologies that extend and even create life are raising complex questions in medical decisions and treatment.

When does life begin, and what constitutes death? Who is the mother of a child produced by surrogacy or by combining the genetic material of two women and a man? Is it moral to allow parents to select the sex of their child or genetically enhance certain traits? Should an alcoholic or smoker receive a new organ instead of someone who did not engage in risky behavior?

Bioethics is an interdisciplinary approach to these and other issues. It draws on law, philosophy, religion, history, sociology, anthropology and literature to explore questions stemming from innovations in medicine and science. Historians variously date the birth of bioethics to the 1960s and the beginning of the Seattle artificial kidney program, to the 1972 public revelation of the 40-year-old Tuskegee syphilis experiment on African-American men, or the 1975 collapse of Karen Ann Quinlan, who spent a decade in a persistent vegetative state. Most bioethicists consider the four governing principles of bioethics to be autonomy, beneficence, nonmaleficence (doing no harm) and justice. These were articulated by Tom Beauchamp and James Childress in their book Principles of Biomedical Ethics (Oxford University Press, 1994).

Major issues

Some of the major issues on the current bioethics agenda include:

  • Embryonic stem cell research – The U.S. ban on embryonic stem cell research has produced fissures within the religious and scientific communities and led to a “brain drain” – scientists leaving the country to work where laws allow more research. Is taking cells from a frozen embryo marked for destruction unethical? Can the same research benefits be gotten from adult stem cell research? Does the potential for curing diseases such as diabetes and Parkinson’s outweigh concerns for the frozen embryo?
  • Genetic testing – Is there an ethical imperative to be tested for known disease genes, like the BRCA1/2 genes for breast cancer, and if so, how can confidentiality be preserved? Should one be tested for a gene, such as the Huntington’s disease mutation, if no treatment exists? Do companies developing genetic tests have an obligation to the public to restrict commercialization of tests if no treatment exists for the condition?
  • Physician-assisted suicide – Does a person have the moral right to terminate his or her own life? Can a physician, who swears by the Hippocratic Oath to protect life, be allowed to help? If so, in what circumstances? Oregon is the only state in which physician-assisted suicide is legal, and most states consider suicide a criminal act.
  • End-of-life issues – When can care be ethically terminated for critically ill patients? What is the difference between removing the barriers to death and prolonging life? What constitutes death – brain death, or the cessation of heart function and respiration? When can organs be removed from a dying patient for transplant?
  • Assisted reproductive technologies – New technologies have moved far beyond in vitro fertilization, which was first successfully performed more than three decades ago. Many raise new questions, including who are the legal parents and what are their rights and responsibilities? Issues include egg donation, sperm donation, sex selection, surrogate births, the use of donated genetic material from two women, and genetic diagnosis before embryo implantation.
  • Organ transplantation – Patients in desperate need of transplants – hearts, kidneys, livers – far outnumber donors. How should organs be allocated – according to who is most sick or who can benefit most? Is it ethical to sell organs from live donors and offer incentives to families of potential donors? Is the commodification of organs on the open market ethical, or does it lead to abuses, such as undue financial pressure on low-income individuals and on families who could be persuaded to go against the wishes of the donor?
  • Xenotransplantation – The development and use of animal tissues and organs for transplantation into humans has the potential to ease shortages, but it is fraught with problems, given the possible transfer of animal viruses to humans. What protections should be put in place to ensure safety, and what ethical considerations must be considered regarding the breeding and use of animals for tissue and organ harvest?
  • Research ethics – Testing new drugs, devices and procedures calls into question how patients’ interests can best be protected. What is required for informed consent? Can a cancer patient who participates in a clinical trial with the hope of a miracle cure give it? Should gene therapy trials have more stringent rules than other clinical trials? Bioethicists are concerned with sufficient protection of human subjects, proper oversight and investigator conflict-of-interest.
  • Health-care resource allocation – Most health-care money is spent on the beginning of life (premature birth or birth defects) or the end. Health-care resources are limited; should spending be rationed, and if so, by what criteria?
  • Gene therapy – This experimental treatment involves changing or repairing defective genes to treat, cure or possibly prevent disease. Gene therapy has resulted in death (of Jesse Gelsinger in 1999) and disease, however, so do the benefits outweigh the risks?
  • Genetic research among indigenous peoples – Many pharmaceutical and biotech companies, as well as university researchers and international consortia, are conducting genetic research in native populations to find disease-related genes. Is such research, sometimes dubbed “helicopter science,” ethical if the subjects will not benefit from the research? Bioethicists are working with researchers to develop protocols that are fair and can benefit research subjects.
  • Gene patenting – Is patenting disease genes ethical? What about patenting cells, or components of cells? Bioethicists are divided about whether it is permissible to patent genes, why and under what circumstances.
  • Neuroethics – This field encompasses a range of ethical questions that are emerging from research in neuroscience, psychiatry and pharmacology and that touch on issues of consciousness, personality and spirituality. It also includes the ethics of neuroimaging and cognitive enhancement.
  • Genetically engineered food – Some maintain that genetically engineering food goes against nature, while others say that feeding famine victims rice engineered to contain extra nutrients is a greater good.



  • provides background information on bioethics and posts articles on urgent issues in genetics and bioethics.

  • The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life: Science and Innovation

    Read a selection of articles about religion and issues in science, including the extension of life, stem cells, cloning, evolution and global warming on the Pew Forum website.

  • The Project on Death in America

    The Project on Death in America seeks to transform the culture of dying by supporting initiatives in research, scholarship, the humanities and the arts, and by fostering innovation in the provision of care, public and professional education, and public policy. It is a major funder of research on death, dying and palliative care.

  • Medical Humanities

    New York University’s Medical Humanities web site has a literature, arts and medicine database that is an annotated bioethics bibliography of prose, poetry, film, video and art. Contact through the website.

  • University of Washington School of Medicine: Ethics in Medicine

    The University of Washington Ethics in Medicine web site covers many bioethics topics in detail for professionals, including medical futility, prenatal diagnosis, confidentiality, advance directives, neonatal intensive care unit issues, informed consent, spirituality and medicine, HIV/AIDS and termination of treatment.

  • Genome News Network

    Genome News Network posts articles on a range of bioethics topics; links to landmark documents, religious views and the U.S. government’s views on various issues; and a timeline on genetics and genomics. The Genome News Network is an educational web site affiliated with and editorially independent from the J. Craig Venter Institute.

  • Bloodlines: Technology Hits Home

    Read about The Bloodlines Project, Bloodlines: Technology Hits Home, which includes a one-hour PBS documentary, an interactive web site, outreach and a guide about how new life-sciences technologies are raising ethical, legal and social dilemmas as cutting-edge science intersects with the law. What does it mean to be a parent? To be human? To have rights? The Bloodlines Project explains what is at stake when public policy trails behind medical science.

Stem cell research

Genetic engineering

  • Biotech U

    Read an introduction to genetic engineering for nonscientists, posted by

  • “Genetic Engineering and its Dangers”

    Read cautionary essays on the putative dangers of genetic engineering from the points of view of science, religion, politics and philosophy, with links to resources and a bibliography. The information was compiled by Ron Epstein, professor emeritus of philosophy at San Francisco State University.

Other issues




  • World Health Organization

    The World Health Organization’s web site contains information about the Human Genome Project, xenotransplantation and other bioethics issues. The site also includes Council for International Organizations of Medical Sciences information about human subject research across borders.

  • Nuffield Council on Bioethics

    The Nuffield Council on Bioethics in the United Kingdom was established in 1991 to identify and assess ethical questions raised by advances in biological and medical research. Since 1994, it has been funded jointly by The Nuffield Foundation, the Medical Research Council and the Wellcome Trust. Two current projects focus on prolonging life in fetuses and the newborn and the ethics of public health; past projects, with reports available on its web site, include the ethics of research involving animals, stem cell therapy and genetically modified crops.


  • American Society for Bioethics and Humanities

    The American Society for Bioethics and Humanities in Glenview, Ill., is a professional advocacy group that brings together bioethicists from medicine, nursing, law, sociology, anthropology, government and philosophy. The society organizes a large educational conference each year and periodic smaller, topical meetings.

  • American Society of Law, Medicine and Ethics

    The American Society of Law, Medicine and Ethics, based in Boston, aims to be a forum for debate, scholarship and critical thought among professionals who work at the intersection of law, health care and ethics. Contact executive director Ted Hutchinson.

  • Public Responsibility in Medicine and Research/ Applied Research Ethics National Assocation

    The Public Responsibility in Medicine and Research/Applied Research Ethics National Association in Boston focuses on the ethics of human and animal research. It organizes conferences each year that are attended by researchers, subject advocates, ethicists, policy-makers, attorneys and pharmaceutical and biotech leaders. Meredith Elkins is director of marketing and communications.

  • Hastings Center

    The nonprofit Hastings Center in Garrison, N.Y., explores bioethics questions in health care, biotechnology and the environment. Recent research projects range from genetic paternity testing to newborn screening to palliative care. Susan Gilbert is the director of communications.

  • Center for Ethics and Professionalism

    The American College of Physicians – American Society of Internal Medicine’s Center for Ethics and Professionalism focuses on developing and carrying out policy on issues related to medical ethics. Its ethics and human rights committee develops educational programs on bioethics, human rights and professionalism.

  • Online Ethics Center for Engineering and Research

    The Online Ethics Center for Engineering and Science is maintained by the National Academy of Engineering. It is part of the Center for Engineering, Ethics, and Society. The Online Ethics Center provides information on ethics as related to science and engineering.

Major university-based bioethics centers

  • University of Pennsylvania Center for Bioethics

    The University of Pennsylvania Center for Bioethics in Philadelphia is one of the pre-eminent bioethics centers in the United States, with more than 20 faculty. The center’s staff includes experts in philosophy, medicine, law, anthropology, sociology and religion. Its website is an excellent place to start an exploration of any bioethics topic and is also home to The American Journal of Bioethics.

    Contact: 215-349-5964.
  • Boston University School of Public Health

    Boston University’s health law, bioethics and human rights department at the School of Public Health focuses on law and public policy, as well as patients’ rights. Chairman George Annas, as well as Dr. Michael Grodin, Wendy Mariner and Leonard Glantz, are pre-eminent scholars in the field. Kara Peterson is the director of communications.

  • Phoebe R. Berman Bioethics Institute

    Johns Hopkins University’s Phoebe R. Berman Bioethics Institute is a large research and teaching institute that addresses health policy, medical care and the biological and behavioral sciences; promotes research on the intersection of ethics, law, medicine and science; and provides service to the government and private sector. It has formal programs in cell engineering, ethics and public policy; ethics and brain sciences; bioethics and public policy; ethics in clinical practice; and research ethics. It has close ties to scientists working at the school in the forefront of stem cell science and runs conferences on that subject.

  • National Center for Bioethics in Research and Health Care

    Tuskegee University’s National Center for Bioethics in Research and Health Care was established in January 1999 as a partial response to the apology of President Clinton for the United States Public Health Service Study on syphilis conducted at Tuskegee, Macon County, Ala., from 1932 to 1972. The center addresses ethical issues in science, technology and health, with an emphasis on effects among people of color and other minorities.

  • University of Minnesota’s Center for Bioethics

    The University of Minnesota’s Center for Bioethics was founded 21 years ago and is one of the leading research centers for bioethics, with 15 full- and part-time faculty. The center conducts original interdisciplinary research, offers educational programs and fosters public discussion through community outreach. The center focuses on the policy level, working closely with policy-makers, health-care professionals and university communities. Projects include the Genetics and Identity Project, Genetics in Primary Care: Ethical and Professional Challenges, African Genealogy and Genetics: Looking Back to Move Forward and Blueprint of the Body on the Human Genome Project.

  • Stanford Center for Biomedical Ethics

    The Stanford Center for Biomedical Ethics at Stanford University does interdisciplinary research in biomedical ethics. David Magnus is director.

  • Center for Biomedical Ethics & Humanities

    The Center for Biomedical Ethics & Humanities at the University of Virginia combines the study of health care and illness with social science and humanity disciplines. Daniel M. Becker is director.



  • National Catholic Bioethics Center

    The National Catholic Bioethics Center in Philadelphia conducts research and consultations in health care and life sciences in accordance with teachings of the Catholic Church. It consults on life science and medical issues with the Vatican, U.S. bishops, public policy-makers, hospitals and international organizations of all faiths. It publishes two journals, Ethics and Medics and The National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly.

  • Center for Christian Bioethics

    The Center for Christian Bioethics, which opened in 1984, sponsors teaching, research and service in biomedical ethics and related fields at Loma Linda University in California. The university includes a health sciences campus operated by the Seventh-day Adventist Church. It conducts monthly bioethics grand rounds at Loma Linda University Medical Center; an annual bioethics seminar in medicine, law and ministry; and occasional national and international conferences on issues of current interest.

  • Neiswanger Institute for Bioethics and Health Policy

    Neiswanger Institute for Bioethics and Health Policy at Loyola University of Chicago’s Stritch School of Medicine in Maywood, Ill., is a pluralistic bioethics institute that draws upon its commitment to social justice of the Jesuit and Roman Catholic heritage.

  • Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity

    The Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity in Bannockburn, Ill., helps individuals and organizations address bioethical challenges, including end-of-life treatment, genetic intervention, euthanasia and reproductive technologies, from a Christian perspective. Its website contains articles with overviews on various topics in bioethics, some position statements, bibliographies and podcasts.



  • Islamic Medical Association of North America

    The Islamic Medical Association of North America aims to provide a forum and resource for Muslim physicians and other health-care professionals, to promote a greater awareness of Islamic medical ethics and values among Muslims and the community at large, to provide humanitarian and medical relief and to be an advocate in health-care policy.

National sources

  • Lori B. Andrews

    Lori B. Andrews is a law professor, director of the Institute for Science, Law and Technology, and associate vice president of the Chicago-Kent College of Law at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago. Andrews has served as an adviser on genetic and reproductive technology to Congress, the World Health Organization, the National Institutes of Health, Centers for Disease Control, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences and several foreign nations. She served as chairwoman of the federal Working Group on the Ethical, Legal and Social Implications of the Human Genome Project and recently served as a consultant to the science ministers of 12 countries on the issues of embryo stem cells, gene patents and DNA banking. Andrews has written 10 books, including The Clone Age: Adventures in the New World of Reproductive Technology (Holt, 1999) and Future Perfect: Confronting Decisions About Genetics (Columbia University Press,2001) and co-authored Genetics: Ethics, Law and Policy (West Publishing, 2002) and The Body Bazaar: The Market for Human Tissue in the Biotechnology Age (Crown Publishers, 2001).

  • Margaret Pabst Battin

    Margaret Pabst Battin is a philosophy professor at the University of Utah and a leading figure in the public debate on end-of-life issues. She has written extensively on religious and ethical concerns in physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia and has researched active euthanasia and assisted suicide in the Netherlands. Her books include Ending Life: Ethics and the Way We Die and Physician Assisted Suicide: Expanding the Debate.

  • Tom Beauchamp

    Tom Beauchamp is a professor of philosophy and a senior research scholar at Georgetown University’s Kennedy Institute of Ethics in Washington, D.C. In 1976, he joined the staff of the National Commission for the Protection of Human Subjects of Biomedical and Behavioral Research, where he wrote the bulk of The Belmont Report (1978), the first and still-definitive document on patients’ rights and human experimentation. Beauchamp is a co-author of Principles of Biomedical Ethics (Oxford University Press, 2001).

  • Daniel Callahan

    Daniel Callahan is a co-founder of the Hastings Center in Garrison, N.Y., director of its international program and a senior fellow at the Harvard Medical School, directing its ethics track. Much of his recent research focuses on health-care and research policy. His project on medicine and the market is examining the impact of market theory on health-care systems, with special attention to equity and health-care costs. He is the author or editor of 36 books, including The Research Imperative: What Price Better Health? (University of California Press, 2003) and False Hopes: Overcoming the Obstacles to a Sustainable, Affordable Medicine (Simon & Schuster and Rutgers University Press, 1998).

  • Nigel Cameron

    Nigel Cameron is president of the Center for Policy on Emerging Technologies in Washington, D.C., as well as leader of the Institute on Biotechnology and the Human Future at Chicago-Kent College of Law. He has presented a TEDx Talk on the implications of a world without human labor.

  • Arthur Caplan

    Arthur Caplan is a professor of bioethics and director of the division of medical ethics at New York University’s school of medicine. He co-edited Assisted Suicide: Finding Common Ground.

    The go-to ethicist is author and editor of more than 25 books and 500 journal articles. Caplan has written and spoken widely on transplantation research ethics, genetics, right-to-die, reproductive technologies and general bioethics. He has served on numerous national and international committees, including as chairman of the advisory committee to the United Nations on human cloning, member of the Presidential Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans’ Illnesses and consultant to government and industry on a wide range of issues. He is a frequent media commentator on bioethics. He co-edited The Case of Terri Schiavo: Ethics at the End of Life (Prometheus Books, 2006).

  • R. Alta Charo

    R. Alta Charo teaches law and bioethics at the University of Wisconsin law school. From 2015 to 2017, she was a member of the Human Genome Editing Initiative, a joint project of the National Academy of Medicine and National Academy of Sciences. She previously served on President Bill Clinton’s National Bioethics Advisory Commission.

    She teaches and writes about health law, bioethics and biotechnology law, medical ethics and reproductive rights. She was a member of the National Bioethics Advisory Committee from 1996-2001 and participated in drafting its reports on cloning, research on people with mental disorders that may affect decision-making, research with human biological materials and ethical issues in stem cell research.

  • James Childress

    James Childress is the John Allen Hollingsworth Professor of Ethics in the department of religious studies at the University of Virginia. His research interests include religious ethics, social and political ethics, biomedical ethics and methods in ethics.

    He co-wrote Principles of Biomedical Ethics (Oxford University Press, 1994), co-edited the Dictionary of Christian Ethics (Westminster, 1986), and wrote Moral Responsibility in Conflicts: Essays on Nonviolence, War and Conscience (Louisiana State University Press, 1983). Childress was vice chairman of the national Task Force on Organ Transplantation.

  • Bill Colby

    Bill Colby was the attorney for the Nancy Cruzan family in the first right-to-die case heard by the U.S. Supreme Court. He is the author of Unplugged: Reclaiming Our Right to Die in America (AMACON, 2006) and Long Goodbye: The Deaths of Nancy Cruzan (Hay House, 2002).

  • Arthur Derse

    Arthur Derse is director of medical and legal affairs, associate director of the Center for the Study of Bioethics, and clinical professor of bioethics and emergency medicine at the Medical College of Wisconsin. He serves as a consultant and board member of a many nationally known bioethics groups.

  • Troy Duster

    Troy Duster is a professor of sociology at New York University in New York City who focuses on the sociology of science, the sociology of race and ethnicity, policy and deviance. Duster has written numerous books, including Backdoor to Eugenics (Routledge, 2003), and many articles on race, genetics, genomics and eugenics, including “The Hidden Eugenic Potential of Germ-Line Interventions” in Designing Our Descendants: The Promises and Perils of Genetic Modifications (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003) and “Buried Alive: The Concept of Race in Science” in Genetic Nature/Culture: Anthropology and Science Beyond the Two-Culture Divide (University of California Press, 2003).

  • Dr. Ezekiel J. Emanuel

    Dr. Ezekiel J. Emanuel is the Diane Levy and Robert M. Levy University Professor in the department of medical ethics and health policy at the University of Pennsylvania.

    An oncologist, Emanuel also has a doctorate in political philosophy from Harvard University. He has published widely on the ethics of clinical research, advance care directives, end-of-life care issues, euthanasia, health-care reform, the ethics of managed care and the physician-patient relationship. His books on medical ethics include The Ends of Human Life (Harvard University Press, 1991) and No Margin, No Mission: Health-Care Organizations and the Quest for Ethical Excellence (Oxford University Press, 2003). In 2004, Emanuel was elected to membership in the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Science. He served on President Clinton’s Health Care Task Force, the National Bioethics Advisory Commission and the bioethics panel of the Pan American Health Organization.

  • Christine Grady

    Christine Grady is head of the section on human subjects research in the department of clinical bioethics at the W.G. Magnuson Clinical Center at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md. A nurse with a doctorate in bioethics, Grady has served as a consultant to international bodies, such as UNAIDS, and spent two years in Brazil with Project Hope. She is the author of Search for an AIDS Vaccine: Ethical Issues in the Development and Testing of a Preventive HIV Vaccine (Indiana University Press, 1995).

  • Jeffrey Kahn

    Jeffrey Kahn directs the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics and teaches courses on bioethics and public policy at Johns Hopkins University.  He has served on numerous state and federal advisory panels and speaks nationally and internationally on a range of bioethics topics. He co-edited a book examining justice and research ethics titled Beyond Consent: Seeking Justice in Research.

  • Dr. Joanne Lynn

    Dr. Joanne Lynn is a pioneer in palliative care and care of the dying, a geriatrician, a health services researcher and an ethicist. She has served as chairwoman for various efforts to improve end-of-life care, is past president of Americans for Better Care of the Dying and is the author or editor of numerous books, including Sick to Death and Not Going to Take It Anymore: Reforming Health Care for the Last Years of Life (University of California Press, 2004). She works in the Office of Clinical Standards and Quality within the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in Baltimore; contact her through the centers’ office of external affairs in Washington, D.C.

    Contact: Director of Communications, Ken Schwartz

  • Ruth Macklin

    Ruth Macklin is a bioethics professor in the department of epidemiology and social medicine at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx, N.Y. A philosopher by training, Macklin focuses on ethics in research involving human subjects, with a special interest in international collaborative research conducted in developing countries. Other areas of interest are HIV/AIDS and reproductive health, access to treatment, public health, assisted reproduction, research involving embryos and stem cells, and gene transfer research. She is also a member of the Columbia University Center for Bioethics external advisory board. She is the author of Surrogates & Other Mothers: The Debates Over Assisted Reproduction.

  • Steven Miles

    Dr. Steven Miles is a professor of medicine and bioethics at the University of Minnesota’s Medical School and Center for Bioethics in Minneapolis, and he is a past president of the American Society of Bioethics and Humanities. He is an author of the original “do not resuscitate” order and has been active in state and national health-care reform. His books include The Hippocratic Oath and the Ethics of Medicine (Oxford University Press, 2004) and Oath Betrayed: Military Medicine and the War on Terror (Random House, July 2006). He has also published 30 chapters and 100 peer-reviewed articles on medical ethics, human rights, tropical medicine, end-of-life care and geriatric health care. He served on President Clinton’s Bioethics Working Group on Health Care Reform. Miles’ work changed tuberculosis treatment for refugees and end-of-life care and has led to the reduction of restraints in nursing homes. His international work includes 25 years of work with the American Refugee Committee.

  • Pamela Sankar

    Pamela Sankar is an anthropologist and an assistant professor of bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania and a senior fellow at the Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics at the University of Pennsylvania. Sankar’s research interests include medical privacy and confidentiality, ethical and cultural implications of genetic research, research ethics, and genetics and race. Her current research project, “Beyond Stigma: Interpreting Genetic Difference,” examines the relationship between genetic conditions, racial and ethnic identities, and stigma.

  • LeRoy Walters

    LeRoy Walters is Senior Professor of Christian Ethics and professor of philosophy at Georgetown University. He has taught at the Kennedy Institute of Ethics since its founding in 1971. Walters served as director of the institute from 1996-99 and has written, taught and lectured extensively on ethical issues in genetic research and gene therapy, stem cell research and cloning, the history of bioethics, and eugenics and bioethics. He served for three years at the NIH’s Recombinant DNA Advisory Committee, which reviewed gene therapy protocols.

  • Paul Root Wolpe

    Paul Root Wolpe directs the Center for Ethics at Emory University. He is first Chief of Bioethics for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), charged with safeguarding research subjects and astronauts. He is also a professor in the Department of Psychiatry, director of the Program in Psychiatry and Ethics at the School of Medicine, and Senior Fellow of the Leonard Davis Institute for Health Economics. He is a member of Penn’s Cancer Center and Center for AIDS research. He is incoming President of the American Society for Bioethics and Humanities, is an editor of the American Journal of Bioethics, and has helped found three professional bioethics societies, two of which deal with issues of religion in bioethics.

  • Laurie Zoloth

    Laurie Zoloth is a professor of religion and ethics at the University of Chicago Divinity School, where she previously served as dean. Before coming to the University of Chicago, she was a professor of religious studies at Northwestern University and professor of bioethics and medical humanities at the university’s Feinberg School of Medicine. Zoloth is a past president of the American Society for Bioethics and Humanities. She is the author of Health Care and the Ethics of Encounter: A Jewish Discussion of Social Justice and co-editor of Notes From a Narrow Ridge: Religion and Bioethics and The Human Embryonic Stem Cell Debate.



  • Richard Doerflinger

    Richard Doerflinger, deputy director of the Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, is a bioethicist who writes frequently on euthanasia. He has written extensively on Roman Catholic teachings on bioethics and testified before Congress. Many of his articles are posted on the Pro-Life Activities bioethics web page.

  • Kevin T. FitzGerald

    The Rev. Kevin T. FitzGerald is a research associate professor at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., in the department of oncology. He is also a Jesuit priest with doctorates in molecular genetics and bioethics. His research efforts in science focused on the investigation of abnormal gene regulation in cancer and research on ethical issues in human genetics. He has published both scientific and ethical articles in books, the popular press and peer-reviewed journals. FitzGerald has given presentations nationally and internationally on topics such as human genetic engineering, cloning, stem cell research and the Human Genome Project. For the past 10 years he has served as an ethics consultant for the National Society of Genetic Counselors. He is a consultant to the March of Dimes Ethics Committee and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and is on the advisory committee of the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s Dialogue on Science, Ethics and Religion. He can be emailed through this link.

  • Gilbert Meilaender

    Gilbert Meilaender is a senior research professor at Valparaiso University in Valparaiso, Ind., and a fellow at the Notre Dame Center for Ethics and Culture. He was a member of the President’s Council on Bioethics from 2002 to 2009.

  • Edmund Pellegrino

    Dr. Edmund Pellegrino is a professor emeritus of medicine at Georgetown University Medical Center. He served as director of the Kennedy Institute of Ethics (1983-89) and the Center for Clinical Bioethics at the medical center (1991-96). He previously chaired of the President’s Council on Bioethics. The author of more than 500 publications, he is best-known for his discussions of Christian virtue and medical ethics in the treatment of patients, humanism and the physician, and the philosophical basis of medical treatment. He is the founding editor of the Journal of Medicine and Philosophy.

  • Dr. Daniel Sulmasy

    Dr. Daniel Sulmasy is a professor of medicine and ethics at the University of Chicago. Sulmasy is a Franciscan friar and a physician. He also holds a doctorate in philosophy and has expertise in end-of-life decision-making. His writings include “Are Feeding Tubes Morally Obligatory?” in the January 2006 St. Anthony Messenger, examining Catholic teachings about extraordinary medical treatments.

    He wrote The Rebirth of the Clinic: An Introduction to Spirituality in Health Care (Georgetown University Press, 2006) and The Healer’s Calling: A Spirituality for Physicians and Other Health Care Professionals (Paulist Press, 1997). His newest book is A Balm for Gilead: Meditations on Spirituality and the Healing Arts (Georgetown University Press).

  • Carol Taylor

    Sister Carol Taylor is former director of the Center for Clinical Bioethics at Georgetown University. She also is a senior research scholar at the Kennedy Institute of Ethics and a professor of nursing at Georgetown. Her background is in philosophy, bioethics and nursing. She is experienced in caring for chronically and critically ill patients and their families.

  • Kenneth L. Vaux

    Kenneth L. Vaux is a professor of theological ethics at Garrett Evangelical Theological Seminary of Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill. He has written about theology and medicine and is the co-author of Dying Well (Abingdon Press, 1996).


  • Elliot Dorff

    Rabbi Elliot Dorff is a professor of philosophy and university rector at American Jewish University in Bel-Air, Calif. He is an expert in Jewish family issues, including adoption. He has studied the Jewish perspective on assisted death, transhumanism and ethics in general.

    Ordained as a Conservative rabbi, Dorff also has a doctorate in moral theory and has been instrumental in helping the Conservative movement formulate its Halakhic (legal) position on human sexuality, infertility treatments and end-of-life issues. He testified before the National Bioethics Advisory Committee (the body that preceded the President’s Council on Bioethics) on the Jewish tradition’s position on stem cell research and human cloning. He is working on a project on Judaism and genetics for the American Association for the Advancement of Science and is a member of its Dialogue on Science, Ethics and Religion Advisory Committee.

  • Aaron Mackler

    Aaron Mackler is an associate professor of theology at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh and a Conservative rabbi. He has written extensively on health-care ethics, theological ethics and Jewish theology and helped draft reports on physician-assisted suicide and medical decision-making as ethicist for the New York State Task Force on Life and Law.

  • Edward Reichman

    Dr. Edward Reichman is Associate Professor of Clinical Emergency Medicine, Department of Emergency Medicine Montefiore Medical Center and Associate Professor of Clinical Epidemiology and Population Health, Department of Epidemiology and Population Health at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx, N.Y., where he teaches Jewish medical ethics. An ordained Orthodox rabbi, Reichman speaks and writes about all areas of Jewish medical ethics, including organ donation, assisted reproduction, and stem cell research. He also serves on the advisory board of the Institute for Genetics and Public Policy. His research is devoted to the interface of medical history and Jewish law.

  • Laurie Zoloth

    Laurie Zoloth is a professor of religion and ethics at the University of Chicago Divinity School, where she previously served as dean. Before coming to the University of Chicago, she was a professor of religious studies at Northwestern University and professor of bioethics and medical humanities at the university’s Feinberg School of Medicine. Zoloth is a past president of the American Society for Bioethics and Humanities. She is the author of Health Care and the Ethics of Encounter: A Jewish Discussion of Social Justice and co-editor of Notes From a Narrow Ridge: Religion and Bioethics and The Human Embryonic Stem Cell Debate.


  • Khaleel Mohammed

    Khaleel Mohammed is an assistant professor of religion at San Diego State University who specializes in Islam, Islamic law and comparative religion. He teaches courses in world religions, the Quran, sex and gender in Islam, and Islamic bioethics. He has been trained as a jurist in both the Sunni and Shiite schools and posts his writings on the website For People Who Think.

  • Abdulaziz A. Sachedina

    Abdulaziz A. Sachedina is a coordinator of the Islamic bioethics group of the International Association of Bioethics and is a professor of Islamic studies at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. He contributed the entry on bioethics for The Oxford Dictionary of Islam.


  • S. Cromwell Crawford

    S. Cromwell Crawford is professor and chairman of religion at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. He is author of The Evolution of Hindu Ethical Ideals (University of Hawaii Press, 1982), has taught a course on ethics in world religions and has written about Hindu ethics and the environment.

    He commends President Bush for appointing advisers to help him with bioethics but worries that eliminating dissenters undercuts the effort. He believes that members of religions are free to express their views on biomedical legislation, but government policies should seek to serve the entire community.


  • Damien Keown

    Damien Keown is a professor emeritus of Buddhist ethics at Goldsmiths, University of London. He has a particular interest in the ethics of medicine and biotechnology.

  • George J. Tanabe Jr.

    George J. Tanabe Jr. is a religion professor at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. He is an expert on Japanese Buddhism and the author of an article on abortion in the Encyclopedia of Buddhism (Macmillan, 2004).

  • Karma Lekshe Tsomo

    Karma Lekshe Tsomo is an associate professor of religion at the University of San Diego who teaches Buddhist ethics, feminist ethics, bioethics (abortion, euthanasia, organ transplantation) and the ethics of war and peace. She is president of Sakyadhita: The International Association of Buddhist Women and director of Jamyang Foundation, an initiative to provide educational opportunities for women in the Indian Himalayas.

Regional sources

In the Northeast

  • George Annas

    George Annas is professor and chairman of the health law department at the Boston University School of Public Health and an expert on abortion policy, embryo research, stem cells and end-of-life research.

  • Nancy Dubler

    Nancy Neveloff Dubler is a bioethics expert who has written and spoken widely on health care for vulnerable populations, end-of-life care, adolescent health and AIDS. She is a professor emerita of family and social medicine at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx, New York, and an affiliate of the school’s bioethics education program.

  • Ruth R. Faden

    Ruth R. Faden is the Philip Franklin Wagley Professor of Biomedical Ethics and is Executive Director of the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics. She is also a senior research scholar at the Kennedy Institute of Ethics, Georgetown University. Faden is co-author of Social Justice: The Moral Foundations of Public Health and Health Policy (Oxford University Press, 2006), A History and Theory of Informed Consent (Oxford University Press, 1986), and HIV, AIDS and Childbearing: Public Policy, Private Lives (Oxford University Press 1996). Faden is a member of the Institute of Medicine and a fellow of the Hastings Center and the American Psychological Association.

  • Dr. Michael Grodin

    Dr. Michael Grodin is professor of health law, bioethics and human rights at Boston University School of Public Health and a clinical medical ethicist for Boston Medical Center.

    He is also a professor of philosophy in the College of Arts and Sciences. The five books he has written or co-edited include The Nazi Doctors and the Nuremburg Code: Human Rights in Human Experimentation (Oxford University Press, 1992); Children as Research Subjects: Science, Ethics and Law (Oxford University Press, 1994); and Perspectives on Health and Human Rights: A Reader (Routledge, 2005). His new book is Mad, Bad or Evil: Physician Involvement in Human Rights Abuses from Nazi Germany to the Former Yugoslavia (2008). His primary areas of interest include the relationship of health and human rights, bioethics, and the philosophy of psychiatry and psychoanalysis.

  • Patricia King

    Patricia King is the Carmack Waterhouse Professor of Law, Medicine, Ethics, and Public Policy at Georgetown University. King has served as deputy director of the Office of Civil Rights, special assistant to the chairman of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and member of the Recombinant DNA Advisory Committee; the President’s Commission for the Study of Ethical Problems in Medicine and Biomedical and Behavioral Research; National Commission for the Protection of Human Subjects of Biomedical and Behavioral Research; and on the Ethics, Legal, and Social Issues Working Group of the Human Genome Project. King is co-author of Cases and Materials on Law, Science, and Medicine (Foundation Press, 1999).

  • Barron H. Lerner

    Dr. Barron H. Lerner is Angelica Berrie-Gold Foundation Associate Profession of Medicine and Public Health at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and the Mailman School of Public Health. Lerner has organized teaching initiatives in bioethics and the medical humanities at Columbia. These include co-directing the ethics and values curriculum for medical students and directing the Jay I. Meltzer Fellowship in Medical Ethics for internal medicine residents. His latest book is The Breast Cancer Wars: Hope, Fear and the Pursuit of a Cure in Twentieth-Century America (Oxford).

  • Jonathan D. Moreno

    Jonathan D. Moreno is a professor of medical ethics and health at the University of Pennsylvania. He is a bioethics adviser for the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, a faculty affiliate of the Kennedy Institute of Ethics at Georgetown University, and a Fellow of the Hastings Center and the New York Academy of Medicine. His books include Is There an Ethicist in the House? (Indiana University Press, 2005); In the Wake of Terror: Medicine and Morality in a Time of Crisis (MIT Press, 2003); Undue Risk: Secret State Experiments on Humans (Routledge, 2001); Ethical and Regulatory Aspects of Clinical Research (Johns Hopkins, 2003); Ethics in Clinical Practice (Aspen Publishers, 2000); and Arguing Euthanasia (Touchstone/Simon & Schuster, 1995). His book Mind Wars: National Security and the Brain, was published in 2006.

  • Lee Silver

    Lee Silver is a professor of microbiology and public affairs at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University in Princeton, N.J. His books include Challenging Nature: The Clash of Science and Spirituality at the New Frontiers of Life and Remaking Eden: How Genetic Engineering and Cloning Will Transform the American Family, which deals with genetic enhancement, or “reprogenetics” — selecting and engineering a child’s genes. He has published scientific articles in the fields of genetics, evolution, reproduction, embryology, computer modeling and behavioral science, and scholarly papers on topics involving biotechnology, law, ethics and religion.

  • Bonnie Steinbock

    Bonnie Steinbock is a philosophy professor at the University of Albany, State University of New York, a faculty member of the Alden March Bioethics Institute at Albany Medical College, a fellow of the Hastings Center and a member of the Ethics Committee of the American Society for Reproduction and Medicine. She specializes in reproduction and genetics. Her recent articles have covered reproductive cloning, wrongful life and procreative decision making, the definitions of parenthood, moral status, and embryonic stem cell research. She wrote Life Before Birth: The Moral and Legal Status of Embryos and Fetuses (Oxford, 1992) and edited The Oxford Handbook of Bioethics (Oxford, forthcoming). She co-edited Public Health Ethics: Theory, Policy, and Practice (Oxford, forthcoming in 2006), Ethical Issues in Modern Medicine (Ashgate, 2002) and Killing and Letting Die (Fordham, 1994).

  • Daniel Wikler

    Daniel Wikler is a professor of population ethics at the Harvard School of Public Health at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass. His interests include ethical dimensions of health resource allocation, the ethics of experimentation with human subjects and ethical dilemmas of global public health practice. A philosopher by training, Wikler served as the first staff ethicist at the World Health Organization in Geneva. He was co-founder of the International Association of Bioethics and the American Association of Bioethics. Wikler has been an Honorary Fellow in the Bioethics Faculty of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and Peking Union Medical College, and a Fellow of the Ford Foundation. He has served on the advisory boards of the Asian Bioethics Association and the Pan American Health Organization Regional Program in Bioethics.

In the South

  • Jeffrey Baker

    Dr. Jeffrey Baker is Director of the Program in the History of Medicine, Trent Center for Bioethics, Humanities & History of Medicine. A medical historian, Baker works on issues in medical technology and child health, such as the evolution of premature infant technology. Much of this work is synthesized in his comparative history of the origins of neonatal medicine in France and the United States, The Machine in the Nursery: Incubator Technology and the Origins of Newborn Intensive Care (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996). He is studying 20th-century controversies involving childhood immunizations and the role of the whooping cough vaccine in shaping U.S. immunization policy since 1974.

  • Baruch A. Brody

    Baruch A. Brody is a professor of biomedical ethics and the former director of the Center for Medical Ethics and Health Policy at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.

  • Mark J. Cherry

    Mark J. Cherry is a philosophy professor at St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas. He is co-editor of Allocating Scarce Medical Resources: Roman Catholic Perspectives (Georgetown University Press, 2003), senior associate editor of The Journal of Medicine and Philosophy, senior associate editor of Christian Bioethics and editor in chief of HealthCare Ethics Committee Forum. His book For Sale by Owner: Human Organs, Transplantation and the Market (Georgetown University Press, 2005), explores the ethics of selling and buying organs for transplantation. He is also co-editor of At the Roots of Christian Bioethics: Critical Essays on the Thought of H. Tristram Engelhardt Jr. (2009).

  • Ellen Wright Clayton

    Ellen Wright Clayton is a professor of pediatrics, law and health policy at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. She also holds an appointment in the university’s Center for Biomedical Ethics and Society. She has advised numerous federal and international bodies on topics including children’s health and the ethics of research involving human subjects.

  • Arri Eisen

    Arri Eisen is director of the Program in Science and Society at Emory University’s Center for Ethics in Atlanta and a professor of pedagogy in the department of biology. Eisen teaches research ethics to faculty, undergraduates, graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and physicians. He researches the basic science of gene regulation and research ethics education. He is co-author of “The Absent Professor: Why We Don’t Teach Research Ethics and What to Do About It” (published in The American Journal of Bioethics) and co-editor of the  two-volume collection of essays titled Science, Religion and Society: An Encyclopedia of History, Culture and Controversy.

  • H. Tristram Engelhardt Jr.

    H. Tristram Engelhardt Jr. is a philosophy professor at Rice University in Houston and an expert on bioethics. His current research interests include rights and responsibilities in health care.

  • Vanessa N. Gamble

    Dr. Vanessa N. Gamble is a physician and medical historian who chaired the presidential committee on the legacy of the infamous Tuskegee syphilis study conducted by the U.S. Public Health Service from 1932-1972, which secured an apology from the government in 1997. She is a health policy and medical education consultant with 20 years’ experience as a researcher, teacher and administrator in issues related to race and American medicine. Previously she was director of the Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in Medicine at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine.

  • Nancy M.P. King

    Nancy M.P. King is a lawyer and Professor at the Wake Forest University School of Medicine, Department of Social Sciences & Health Policy. Her scholarship focuses on bioethics and health law, focusing on roles and responsibilities in health-care decisions, human subject research ethics, and “everyday ethics.” She has worked extensively on informed consent in health care, neonatal intensive care, experimental technologies, international research ethics and end-of-life decision-making. She is currently researching the benefit of human gene transfer research and the ethical, legal and social implications of large-sample gene discovery and disclosure. She wrote Making Sense of Advance Directives (Georgetown University Press, 1996) and co-edited Beyond Regulations: Ethics in Human Subjects Research (UNC Press 1999) and The Social Medicine Reader (Duke University Press, 1997).

  • E. Haavi Morreim

    E. Haavi Morreim is a professor of bioethics at the college of medicine at the University of Tennessee in Memphis. She teaches clinical ethics and consults in medical ethics. She also chairs the Independent Patient Advocacy Council for the AbioCor artificial heart trial. She is the author of Balancing Act: The New Medical Ethics of Medicine’s New Economics (Georgetown University Press, 1995) and Holding Health Care Accountable: Law and the New Medical Marketplace (Oxford University Press, 2001).

  • Gregory E. Pence

    Gregory E. Pence is a professor of philosophy and bioethics at the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s school of medicine. His teaches the history of ethical issues in medicine since World War II. He wrote Recreating Medicine: Ethical Issues at the Frontier of Medicine (Rowman & Littlefield, 2000) and Who’s Afraid of Human Cloning? (Rowman & Littlefield, 1998). He is in favor of human cloning and has testified before Congress on the topic.

  • John A. Robertson

    John A. Robertson holds the Vinson and Elkins Chair at the University of Texas School of Law in Austin. He has written and lectured widely on law and bioethical issues. His books include The Rights of the Critically Ill.

In the Midwest

  • Norman Fost

    Dr. Norman Fost is a professor of pediatrics at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. He is chairman of the Human Subjects Committee and the Hospital Ethics Committee. He has written about hospital ethics committees and the use of enhancing medical technologies.

  • Scott Sanders

    Scott Sanders is director of the Social Work Program at Cornerstone University in Grand Rapids, Mich. He has taught ethics courses and conducted ethics workshops for social workers.

  • Stuart Youngner

    Dr. Stuart Youngner is director of the Center for Biomedical Ethics and a professor of bioethics, medicine and psychiatry at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. He has written and lectured on physician-assisted suicide, decisions to limit life-sustaining treatment, advance directives, definitions of death, ethics committees and ethical issues in organ retrieval and transplantation. He recently co-directed a national task force that examined the need for ethics committees’ standards and consultation.

In the West

  • Mildred Cho

    Mildred Cho is associate director at the Stanford University Center for Biomedical Ethics and a professor of pediatrics (genetics) and medicine. She has training in science and health policy. She sits on advisory boards for the National Human Genome Research Institute and the American Association for the Advancement of Science Public Policy Directorate. Cho focuses on the ethical and social impacts of genetic research, genetic testing and gene therapy and how conflicts of interest affect the conduct of academic biomedical research. Her current research projects include a study of factors affecting patients’ and practitioners’ use of genetic tests for hereditary breast and ovarian cancer, a study of the roles of heredity and race or ethnicity in the stigmatization of genetic conditions, ethical issues in pharmacogenetics and bioinformatics, a study of the effect of gene patenting on the delivery of clinical genetics services, and an analysis of university policies on academic-industry ties.

  • Henry Greely

    Henry “Hank” Greely is a law professor at Stanford University who specializes in health law, genetics and law and biotechnology law. He is the lead author of Cloning Californians? Report of the California Advisory Committee on Human Cloning. He is also a former clerk for Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart and has served as chairman of the steering committee for the Stanford Center for Biomedical Ethics, ethics chairman of the North American Committee of the Human Genome Diversity Project, and chair of the California Advisory Committee of Human Embryonic Stem Cell Research. He is one of the founding members of the Neuroethics Society. Greely has helped develop rules for conducting research among indigenous peoples.

  • Bernard Lo

    Dr. Bernard Lo is director of the program in medical ethics and a professor of medicine at the University of California at San Francisco’s School of Medicine. He has written and taught on many topics in bioethics, including research with human beings, AIDS, neuroethics, stem cell policy, pain management and end-of-life care. He wrote Resolving Ethical Dilemmas: A Guide for Clinicians (Lippincott, 2005).

  • David Magnus

    David Magnus is Chair, Program in Regenerative Medicine Sub-Committee on Bioethics and Conflict of Interest at Stanford University, where he is director of the Stanford Center for Biomedical Ethics and co-chairman of the ethics committee for the Stanford Health Center. He has written on the history and philosophy of biology and bioethics, particularly on issues concerning genetic technology. Magnus recently served on the National Research Council Ad Hoc Committee on the Bioconfinement of Genetically Engineered Organisms, and he served as a consultant for the World Bank on food security and biotechnology. He is a member of the Secretary of Agriculture’s Advisory Committee on Biotechnology in the 21st Century. He is co-editor of Who Owns Life? (Prometheus Press, 2002). He serves as associate editor of The American Journal of Bioethics.

  • Gregory Stock

    Gregory Stock is a former director of the Program on Medicine, Technology and Society at the University of California, Los Angeles, School of Public Health. His research interests include the implications for society, medicine and business of the Human Genome Project and developments in molecular genetics and bioinformatics. His books include Redesigning Humans: Our Inevitable Genetic Future (Houghton Mifflin, 2002), and Engineering the Human Germline (Oxford University Press, 2000).

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