Timeline of bioethics

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This is a timeline of bioethics, attempting to describe significant events related to the development of the field. Its subfield medical ethics is described with more detail on the Timeline of medical ethics.

Sample questions

The following are some interesting questions that can be answered by reading this timeline:

  • What are some of the multiple topics closely related to the field of bioethics?
  • What are some notable events describing the development of the concept of bioethics?
    • Sort the full timeline by "Event type" and look for the group of rows with value "Concept development".
    • You will see events related to the development of the term "bioethics" as well as several other associated terms, such as "biopolitics" and "speciesism", etc.
  • What are some notable publications on the topic of bioethics?
    • For books, sort the full timeline by "Event type" and look for the group of rows with value "Literature (book)".
    • You will see some very early publications by authors such as Thomas Aquinas, as well as modern classics in the field, such as Animal Liberation, and other notable publications.
    • For academic journals, sort the full timeline by "Event type" and look for the group of rows with value "Literature (journal)".
  • What are some events describing notable controversial cases pertaining to the field of bioethics?
    • Sort the full timeline by "Event type" and look for the group of rows with value "Notable case"
    • You will see a variety of cases of interest mainly occurring within the scope of controversial scientific fields, as well as some cases involving biological agents.
  • What are some events describing criticism on the field of bioethics?
    • Sort the full timeline by "Event type" and look for the group of rows with value "Criticism".
    • You will see comments by some notable authors, including Steven Pinker and Bryan Caplan.
  • What are some notable organizations devoted to the topic of bioethics?
    • Sort the full timeline by "Event type" and look for the group of rows with value "Organization".
    • You will mostly see a number of English speaking organizations esablished whether by educational institutions or national governments.
  • What are some notable policies issued by governments on issues pertaining to the field of bioethics?
    • Sort the full timeline by "Event type" and look for the group of rows with value "Policy".
    • You will see a number of regulations introduced by governments and major organizations, many related to controversial cases in scientific research, and concerning the field of bioethics.
  • What are some notable treaties concerning bioethics?
    • Sort the full timeline by "Event type" and look for the group of rows with value "Treaty".
    • You will see important treaties signed by UNESCO, concerning bioethics.
  • Other events are described under the following types: "Activism", "Genetic discrimination", "Genetic privacy", and "Notable comment".

Big picture

Time period Development summary
<1960s Discussions of moral issues in medicine already happen in ancient times, with early contributions by Hippocrates and Plato.[1] In the 20th century, German theologian Fritz Jahr publishes three articles in 1927, 1928, and 1934 using the German term “Bio-Ethik”, forcefully arguing an ethical approach to issues concerning human beings and the environment.[2]
1960s Bioethics as a distinct field of academic study is born in the United States, merging from a cluster of scientific and cultural developments in the country during that decade.[3] A wide range of new ethical problems emerge into view, all of them driven by spectacular advances in medicine and biology.[4]
1970s Many bioethics programs and degrees are established at universities in the United States in order to provide students – most notably medical, law, and public policy students – with some expertise in medical ethics to deal with complex cases.[2] Feminist bioethics develops from the early 1970s on and is initially focused on medical ethics; proponents later extend the areas of interest to issues in the fields of animal and environmental ethics.[2]
1980s Universities begin establishing human subjects review committees.[5] Late in the decade, the Russian school of bioethics originates.[6]
1990s The contributions of social scientists to bioethical research become particularly important. Work of this type involves surveys of public attitudes to advances in the life sciences, including xenotransplantation and genetic modification.[1]
2000s Ethics consultation begins to emerge as another, more enduring model of ethics and science interaction. The concept of research ethics consultation develops.[7]

Full timeline

Year Main topic Event type Details Location
380 BC Eugenics Field development The Republic of Plato advocates selective human breeding in anticipation of later programs of eugenics.[1] Greece
1259 – 1265 Abortion Literature (book) Italian philosopher Thomas Aquinas writes his Summa contra Gentiles, which briefly discusses the permissibility of abortion.[1] Italy
Thomas Aquinas
1620 General Literature (book) English philosopher Francis Bacon publishes his Novum Organon, in which he argues that scientific research should benefit humanity.[8] United Kingdom
Francis Bacon
1830 Scientific misconduct Literature (book) English polymath Charles Babbage writes Reflections on the Decline of Science in England, which catalogs scientific misdeeds, and originates such terms as data trimming, data fudging, data falsification, and data cooking.[9] United Kingdom
Charles Babbage
1859 Human evolution Literature (book) English naturalist Charles Darwin publishes On the Origin of Species, which proposes a theory of evolution of living things by natural selection. The book would generate much controversy because it proposes that human beings were not created by God (as most religions claimed) but descended from apes.[10] United Kingdom
Charles Darwin
1905 Biopolitics Concept development Swedish political scientist Rudolf Kjellén coins the term "biopolitics".[11] in his 1905 two-volume work The Great Powers.[12] Sweden
Rudolf Kjellén
1926 General Literature (article) German theologian Fritz Jahr, referring to European and Oriental traditions, publishes an article entitled Natural sciences and teaching ethics where he gives the subtitle “Old Knowledge in new clothes” describing the function of natural sciences for education and teaching biological research ethics.[6] Germany
1927 General Concept development Fritz Jahr publishes article using the German term “Bio-Ethik” (which translates as “Bio-Ethics”) and argues, both for the establishment of a new academic discipline, and for the practice of a new, more civilized, ethical approach to issues concerning human beings and the environment. Jahr would publish similar articles discussing bioethics in 1928, and 1934.[2] Germany
1931 Reproductive rights Policy Mexico becomes the first country in the world to legalize abortion in cases of rape.[13] Mexico
1938 Biopolitics Literature (book) English writer Morley Roberts publishes Bio-politics: an essay in the physiology, pathology & politics of the social & somatic organism, which argues that a correct model for world politics is "a loose association of cell and protozoa colonies".[14] United Kingdom
Morley Roberts
1947 General Literature (essay) American ecologist Aldo Leopold publishes The Land Ethic, a chapter in A Sand County Almanac. Leopold argues that there is a critical need for a "new ethic," an "ethic dealing with human's relation to land and to the animals and plants which grow upon it".[15] United States
1947 Human experimentation Policy The Nuremberg Code is adopted as a set of research ethics principles for human experimentation created as a result of the Nuremberg trials at the end of the Second World War. These principles are used as a set of research principles to be used to prosecute the Nazi scientists as war criminals.[16][17]
1948–1953 Human sexuality Literature (book) American biologist Alfred Kinsey publishes Sexual Behavior in the Human Male. Five years later, he publishes Sexual Behavior in the Human Female. These books, known as the Kinsey Reports would become very controversial, because they examine topics which are regarded as taboo at the time, such as masturbation, orgasm, sexual intercourse, promiscuity, and sexual fantasies.[18][19] United States
1965 Science and technology studies Literature (journal) Peer-reviewed academic journal Science, Technology, & Human Values is founded. It covers research on the relationship of science and technology with society.[20] United States
1966 Cryonics Notable case The first human body –a middle-aged woman from Los Angeles, is frozen by being placed in liquid nitrogen and stored at just above freezing. However, the body would be later thawed out and buried by relatives.[21] United States
1967 Value studies Literature (journal) Peer-reviewed philosophical journal Journal of Value Inquiry is established. It focuses on value studies.[22]
1969 General Organization The Institute of Society, Ethics, and the Life Sciences (later The Hastings Center) is founded by American philosopher Daniel Callahan and Professor Willard Gaylin as a bioethics research institute. Located in Garrison, New York[23][24], it would be regarded as instrumental in establishing the field of bioethics and one of the most prestigious bioethics and health policy institutes in the world.[25][26][27] The Hastings Center publishes two journals, the Hastings Center Report,[28][29] and Ethics & Human Research (formerly IRB: Ethics & Human Research).[30] A freestanding bioethics center, it is the first institution devoted to the study of bioethical questions.[3][31] United States
Woodlawn, Garrison, NY wide view.jpg
1969 Biological agent use Policy United States President Richard Nixon terminate production of biological weapons, allowing only scientific research for defensive measures.[32] United States
1970 Environmental ethics Literature (article) American biochemist Van Rensselaer Potter publishes his article Bioethics, the Science of Survival, which suggests viewing bioethics as a global movement in order to foster concern for the environment and ethics.[2][31] Van Rensselaer Potter defines the term "bioethics" to describe a new philosophy that seeks to integrate biology, ecology, medicine, and human values.[33]
1970 Speciesism Concept development English animal rights advocate Richard D. Ryder coins the term "speciesism" to describe the exclusion of nonhuman animals from the protections available to human beings.[34] United Kingdom
Richard D Ryder in The Superior Human (2012).jpg
1971 General Literature (book) Van Rensselaer Potter publishes book Bioethics: Bridge to the Future.[31] United States
1971 General Literature (journal) Peer-reviewed academic journal Hastings Center Report is first issued.[35]
1971 Biomedicine Concept development Georgetown University researcher Andre Hellegers uses the term bioethics to refer to interdisciplinary research moral problems of biomedicine, primarily associated with the need to protect the dignity and rights of patients.[6] United States
1971 Medicine Organization The Joseph and Rose Kennedy Center for the Study of Human Reproduction and Bioethics (now known as Kennedy Center) opens at Georgetown University. With similar goals to those of The Hastings Center, the Kennedy Institute is however placed inside the traditional academy.[3][31] Founded by Andre Hellegers, it is the first in the world to establish an institute of bioethics on the basis of interdisciplinary research and approaches.[6] United States
KIEJ Cover.png
1972 Catholic bioethics Organization The National Catholic Bioethics Center is established. Based in Philadelphia, it states its mission as "promoting and safeguarding the dignity of the human person, thereby sharing in the ministry of Jesus Christ and his Church."[36].[37][38][39] United States
1973 General Literature (article) American philosopher Daniel Callahan writes essay Bioethics as a Discipline, whose title is the first entry of the word "bioethics" in the catalogue of the National Library of Congress.[31] In the article, Callahan argues for the establishment of a new academic discipline.[2] United States
1974 Human subject research Policy The 93rd United States Congress enacts the National Research Act, which authorizes federal agencies to develop human research regulations.[40][41][42][43] United States
1975 Cruelty to animals Literature (book) Australian moral philosopher Peter Singer publishes Animal Liberation: A New Ethics for Our Treatment of Animals, which raises concern on cruelty to animals. The book exposes the realities of factory farms and product-testing procedures. It is widely considered within the animal liberation movement to be the founding philosophical statement of its ideas. Singer claims that human beings must consider the equal interests of human beings and animals alike.[2][44] Activist Ingrid Newkirk would later write of Animal Liberation, "It forever changed the conversation about our treatment of animals. It made people—myself included—change what we ate, what we wore, and how we perceived animals."[45] United States
1975 Genetics Field development At a gathering at the Asilomar Conference on Recombinant DNA at Asilomar, California, scientists discuss the benefits and risks of recombinant DNA research. The Recombinant DNA Advisory Committee is formed by the National Institutes of Health to provide guidance for researchers and institutions. The Institutional Biosafety Committees (IBCs) is also formed to review and oversee research involving hazardous biological materials.[46][47][48] United States
1977 General Literature (book) British philosopher Jonathan Glover publishes Causing Death and Saving Lives, which addresses practical moral questions about life and death decisions in the areas of abortion, infanticide, suicide, euthanasia, choices between people, capital punishment, and issues of war and peace.[49] United Kingdom
1978 General Literature (encyclopedia) The Encyclopedia of Bioethics launches its first edition, becoming the first reference book to focus exclusively on the field of bioethics.[50][6]
1978 Biopolitics Concept development French philosopher Michel Foucault elaborates further his concept of biopower in his lecture courses delivered at the Collège de France.[51] France
Michel Foucault 1974 Brasil.jpg
1979 Biological agent use Notable case An anthrax outbreak in Sverdlovsk (Soviet Union) occurs when spores of anthrax are accidentally released from a Soviet military research facility. In what would be considered among the largest biological weapons accident, approximately 100 people die. Sheep become ill with anthrax as far as 200 kilometers from the release point.[52][53][54] Russia
1980 Genetic engineering Policy In the Diamond v. Chakrabarty case the United States Supreme Court rules that a genetically modified bacterium can be patented because it is the product of human ingenuity. This sets a precedent for patents on other life forms and helps to establish solid intellectual property protection for the new biotechnology industry.[46] United States
1980 Philosophy of medicine, general bioethics Literature (journal) Peer-reviewed medical journal Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics is first issued.[55]
1982 Scientific misconduct Literature (book) William Broad and Nicholas Wade publish Betrayers of the Truth, which attempts to reveal much of the scientific misconduct that happens at this time.[56] United States
William Broad
1986 General Literature (journal) Peer-reviewed academic journal Biology and Philosophy is launched.[57]
1986 Biocentrism Literature (book) American philosopher Paul W. Taylor publishes Respect for Nature: A Theory of Environmental Ethics which discusses biocentrism. Taylor maintains that biocentrism is an "attitude of respect for nature", whereby one attempts to make an effort to live one's life in a way that respects the welfare and inherent worth of all living creatures.[58][59] United States
1987 General Literature (book) Ren-zong Qiu's Bioethics is published as the first bioethics book in China.[60] China
1987 General Literature (journal) Peer-reviewed academic journal Bioethics is launched.[61]
1988 Environmental ethics Literature (journal) The Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics is established.[62]
1988 Genetically modified mice Notable case Harvard University and Dow Chemical Company patent a genetically engineered mouse used to study cancer. This invention would become highly controversial as it involves the genetic manipulation of animals, particularly mammals.[63][64][65][46] United States
1988 General Literature (book) Van Rensselaer Potter publishes Global bioethics,[6] which defines bioethics as "Biology combined with diverse humanistic knowledge forging a science that sets a system of medical and environmental priorities for acceptable survival."[33]
1989 Research ethics Literature (book) The United States National Academy of Sciences publishes On Being A Scientist, a free, short book on research ethics for scientists in training.[46][66][67][68] United States
1990 General Literature (column) American medical ethicist Sigrid Fry-Revere starts the column Legal Trends in Bioethics for the Journal of Clinical Ethics.[69] The column "tracks bioethics related issues through all stages of litigation, legislation, and regulation at both the federal and state levels, as well as occasionally mentioning exceptional legal developments in other countries."[70] United States
1990 Genetic discrimination Notable case The Human Genome Project is launched by the United States as a US$20 billion effort to map and sequence the human genome. At the onset of this project, several ethical, legal, and social concerns would be raised in regard to how increased knowledge of the human genome could be used to discriminate against people.[71][72] United States
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1991 General Organization London-based Nuffield Council on Bioethics is established by the Nuffield Foundation, with the purpose to adress numerous bioethical issues in need of analysis.[73][74][75] United Kingdom
1991 General Literature (journal) The Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal is launched.[76][77] United States
1992 Healthcare Literature (journal) Quarterly peer-reviewed academic journal Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics is launched.[78]
1992 Scientific misconduct Literature (book) The United States National Academy of Sciences publishes Responsible Science: Ensuring the Integrity of the Research Process. The book estimates the incidence of misconduct, discusses some of the causes of misconduct, proposes a definition of misconduct, and recommends some strategies for preventing misconduct.[46][79][80] United States
1992 Environmental ethics Literature (journal) Peer-reviewed academic journal Environmental Values is established.[81][82] United Kingdom
1992 Research integrity Organization The United States Office of Research Integrity is formed. It focuses on research integrity.[83] United States
Office of Research Integrity logo.png
1993 Human cloning Notable case Researchers successfully clone human embryos.[46]
1993 General Organization The International Bioethics Committee is established by UNESCO to provide guidance on ethical and legal issues raised by research in medicine, biological sciences and associated technologies, and to reinforce knowledge in ethics.[84][85]
UNESCO logo English.svg
1994 Race and intelligence Literature (book) American psychologist Richard Herrnstein and American political scientist Charles Murray publish The Bell Curve, a controversial book that reignites the centuries old debate about biology, race and intelligence.[86] United States
1995 Human and non-human animal patenting Activism About 200 religious leaders join in Washington, DC., with leading biotechnology critic Jeremy Rifkin in a press conference named the "Joint Appeal against Human and Animal Patenting", protesting the patenting of plants, animals, and human body parts.[46][87][88] United States
1995 Healthcare Organization The Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics is established. It is dedicated to the study of complex moral and policy issues in biomedical science, health care, and health policy, promoting research in bioethics.[89][90] United States
1995 General Organization The University of Toronto Joint Centre for Bioethics is established.[91] Canada
1995 Biomedicine Concept development Daniel Callahan defines bioethics as a science “which is the product of biomedical achievements related to the environment and social sciences”.[6] United States
1995 Biological agent use Notable case The Tokyo subway sarin attack is perpetrated. This would further increase concern among scientists and defense analysts about the use of chemical or biological weapons.[92] Japan
1995 Science and engineering Literature (journal) Quarterly peer-reviewed scientific journal Science and Engineering Ethics is first issued.[93]
1995 Budhist bioethics Literature (book) British bioethicist Damien Keown publishes Buddhism & Bioethics, which discusses issues in medical ethics from a Buddhist perspective, examining issues including abortion, embryo research and euthanasia.[94] United Kingdom
1996 Cloning Notable case Dolly is born as the first mammal ever to be cloned from another individual’s body cell. Her birth would be announced in 1997, followed by several European nations banning human cloning. The United States Congress would consider a bill to ban all human cloning but changes its mind after scientists argue that the bill would undermine biomedical research.[46][95][96] United Kingdom
Dolly taxidermied remains
1996 General Organization The National Bioethics Advisory Commission is established.[97][98] United States
1996 Ecology Literature (book) American philosopher David Abram publishes The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-than-Human World. Abram coins the phrase "the more-than-human world" as a way of referring to earthly nature.[99] United States
1996 Healthcare Literature (book) American philosopher H. Tristram Engelhardt Jr. publishes The Foundation of Bioethics, in which he states “Moral diversity is real. It is real in fact and in principle. Bioethics and healthcare policy have yet to take this diversity seriously. Those who teach bioethics, those who engage in bioethics committees, even those who produced textbooks tend to discount the diversity of understanding regarding the morality of particular health care choices (e.g., regarding abortion, commercial surrogacy, euthanasia/ germline genetic engineering, inequalities in access to health care, infanticide, organ sales) or the nature of morality (e.g., theological, deontological, virtue-based)".[6] United States
1996 Feminist bioethics Literature (book) American feminist philosopher Rosemarie Tong publishes Feminist Approaches To Bioethics: Theoretical Reflections And Practical Applications, which attemps to introduce to the field of feminist bioethics.[100] United States
1997 Human genetics Treaty The UNESCO's International Bioethics Committee adopts the International Declaration on Human Genetic Data, its first international declaration.[101]
1997 Publication ethics Organization The Committee On Publication Ethics is established in the United Kingdom, consisting in academic journal editors and others who are concerned about the integrity of what is peer-reviewed and published in journals.[102][103] United Kingdom
1997 Wisdom of repugnance Concept development The term "wisdom of repugnance" is coined by American physician Leon Kass in an article in The New Republic. Kass states that disgust is not an argument per se, but says that "in crucial cases... repugnance is the emotional expression of deep wisdom, beyond reason's power fully to articulate."[104] United States
1997 Medical ethics Organization The National Center for Bioethics in Research and Health Care is established at Tuskegee University, as part of the United States Government official apology for the Tuskegee Syphilis Study. See Timeline of medical ethics.[105] United States
National Center for Bioethics in Research and Health Care
1997 Medical ethics Literature (book) American moral philosopher Bernard Gert publishes Bioethics: A Return to Fundamentals, which attempts to integrate moral philosophy with clinical medicine "to present a comprehensive summary of the theory, concepts, and lines of reasoning underlying the field of bioethics".[106] United States
1998 General Literature (book) Peter Singer and Helga Kuhse publish A companion to Bioethics.[107]
1998 Human embryonic development Notable case/policy As scientists perfect methods for growing human embryonic stem cells, some countries ban the research, while others promote it.[108][109][110][46]
1998 Human genome sequencing Notable case American biotechnologist Craig Venter forms Celera Genomics and begins a private effort to sequence the human genome, using dozens of automated sequencing machines.[46] United States
1998 General Organization The American Society for Bioethics and Humanities is founded.[111] It is dedicated to promoting research and the exchange of ideas in bioethics and related disciplines in the humanities.[112] United States
1998 General Literature (journal) Peer-reviewed academic journal Ethical Theory and Moral Practice is first issued.[113]
1999 General Literature (journal) AMA Journal of Ethics is launched.[114] United States
1999 General Literature (journal) The American Journal of Bioethics is launched.[115] United Sattes
1999 Confucian Bioethics Literature (book) Chinese bioethicist Lee Shui-chuen publishes Confucian Bioethics (in Chinese).[116][117][118] China
1999 General Literature (book) American philosopher Carl Elliott publishes A Philosophical Disease: Bioethics, Culture and Identity.[119] United States
1999 General Literature (book) American professor Robert M. Veatch publishes The Basics of Bioethics, which attempts to introduce readers of all backgrounds to the field of bioethics in an accessible way. This book is based on the author's training in both religious and philosophical ethics.[120] United States
2000 General Literature (book) Kevin Wildes publishes Moral Acquaintances: Methodology in Bioethics.[121]
2000 Darwinism Literature (book) British bioethicist Janet Radcliffe Richards publishes Human Nature After Darwin: A Philosophical Introduction, which investigates the implications of Darwinism for understanding humans and their situation.[122] United Kingdom
2001 Catholic bioethics Literature (journal) Peer-reviewed journal The National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly is launched.[123] United States
2001 Scientific integrity Policy Several journals start requiring authors to describe their responsibilities when publishing research.[46]
2001 Stem cell research Organization The International Society for Stem Cell Research is established to promote the exchange and dissemination of information and ideas relating to stem cells.[124][125]
2001 Biomedical science, technology Organization The President's Council on Bioethics is created by United States President George W. Bush to advice the President on bioethical issues that may emerge as a consequence of advances in biomedical science and technology.[126] United States
2001 Genetic studies Organization The Center for Genetics and Society is established.[127] United States
2002 Cloning Policy The President's Council on Bioethics recommends that the United States ban reproductive cloning and enact a moratorium on research cloning.[46][128][129][130] United States
2002 Earth jurisprudence Concept development South African author Cormac Cullinan publishes Wild Law: A Manifesto for Earth Justice, which describes the first detailed exploration of earth jurisprudence in print and introduces the term "Great Jurisprudence". Cullinan states that the survival all living beings requires us humans to alter fundamentally our understanding of the nature and purpose of law and governance, rather than merely changing laws.[131][132] South Africa
2002 Biological agent use Literature (journal) Researchers publish several papers in prominent journals with direct implications for bioterrorism. Some described methods include one for genetically engineering a form of mousepox virus that is much deadlier than the naturally occurring strain. Another shows how to make the poliovirus by obtaining supplies from a mail-order company. Another study develops a mathematical model for showing how many people would be killed by infecting the United States milk supply with botulinum toxin.[133]
2002 Biotechnology Organization The Toi Te Taiao: The Bioethics Council is established. Its goal is: "To enhance New Zealand's understanding of the cultural, ethical and spiritual aspects of biotechnology and ensure that the use of biotechnology has regard for the values held by New Zealanders." [134][135] New Zealand
2003 Biological research Policy The American Society for Microbiology, the National Academy of Sciences, and the Center for Strategic and International Studies hold a meeting to discuss the censorship on biological research that poses security risks. Self-censorship of some research is also agreed by journals.[136][137]
2003 General Criticism American medical anthropologist Paul Farmer criticizes bioethics noting that it tends to focus its attention on problems that arise from "too much care" for patients in industrialized nations, while giving little or no attention to the ethical problem of too little care for the poor.[138] Farmer characterizes the bioethics of handling morally difficult clinical situations, normally in hospitals in industrialized countries, as "quandary ethics", which he does not regard as unimportant, but argues, rather, that bioethics must be balanced and give due weight to the poor.[139] United States
Paul Farmer
2003 Biological agent use Notable case The United States invades Iraq with the stated purpose of eliminating its chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons programs. So far, only evidence of weapons programs would be found, but no actual weapons.[46] Iraq
2003 Human genetics Treaty The International Bioethics Committee issues a second global instrument, the International Declaration on Human Genetic Data, which may be regarded as an extension of the Universal Declaration on the Human Genome and Human Rights.[140][141]
2003 Asian values Literature (book) Chinese bioethicist Qiu Renzong poublishes Bioethics: Asian Perspectives: A Quest for Moral Diversity, which addresses bioethical issues from comprehensive Asian perspectives and different from the western paradigm.[142]
2004 General Literature (journal) The Journal of Bioethical Inquiry is released by the University of Otago Bioethics Centre.[143] New Zealand
2004 Transhumanism (democratic) Literature (book) American bioethicist James Hughes publishes Citizen Cyborg, a non-fiction book which articulates democratic transhumanism as a socio-political ideology and program.[144] United States
2002 Transhumanism Literature (book) American political economist and philosopher Francis Fukuyama publishes Our Posthuman Future, which designates transhumanism as the world's most dangerous idea because he believes that it may undermine the egalitarian ideals of democracy (in general) and liberal democracy (in particular) through a fundamental alteration of "human nature".[145]
2005 Human rights Treaty The Universal Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights is adopted by UNESCO.[146][147]
2005 Biosecurity Organization The National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity is established by the United States Department of Health and Human Services "to provide advice and guidance to federal agencies, scientists, and journals concerning oversight and public of research in biotechnology or biomedicine which can be readily applied to cause significant harm to public health, agriculture, the economy, or national security".[148] United States
2005 Healthcare, life science, biotechnology Organization Bioethics International (BEI) is established in the State of New York, with the mission "to empower professionals and organizations in healthcare, life science and biotechnology".[149][150] United States
Bioethics Logo.png
2005 Human rights, health law Literature (book) American professor George Annas publishes American bioethics: crossing human rights and health law boundaries.[151] United States
2005 Organ trade Literature (book) American bioethicist Mark Cherry publishes Kidney for Sale by Owner: Human Organs, Transplantation, and the Market, which argues that healthcare "could be improved and lives saved by introducing a regulated transplant organs market rather than by well-meant, but misguided, prohibitions".[152] United States
2006 Antinatalism Literature (book) South African philosopher David Benatar publishes Better Never to Have Been: The Harm of Coming into Existence, in which he argues that coming into existence is always a serious harm, regardless of the feelings of the existing being once brought into existence, and that, as a consequence, it is always morally wrong to create more sentient beings.[153][154]
2006 Human enhancement Field development Nick Bostrom and Toby Ord introduce the reversal test as a heuristic designed to spot and eliminate status quo bias in the context of the bioethics of human enhancement.[155]
Nick Bostrom
2006 Social science, biology Literature (journal) Quarterly peer-reviewed scientific journal BioSocieties is released.[156]
2007 African American bioethics Literature (book) Lawrence Prograis and Edmund D. Pellegrino publish African American Bioethics: Culture, Race, and Identity, which discusses the existence of a distinctive African American bioethics.[157][158] United States
2007 General Literature (book) Italian bioethicist Elio Sgreccia publishes Manuale di bioetica. Fondamenti ed etica biomedica, which presents a reason-based philosophical approach to bioethics linking with the natural law and the moral teachings of the Catholic Church.[159][160][161] Italy
2008 Feminist bioethics Literature (journal) The International Journal of Feminist Approaches to Bioethics is launched to encourage more work in feminist bioethics.[162][163]
2008 Genetic discrimination Policy The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) is passed on May 21 in the United States, making genetic discrimination illegal in the country.[164] United States
2008 General Competition The Bioethics Bowl (a spin-off of the Ethics Bowl) launches in the United States as an intercollegiate, academic competition among undergraduate students at accredited four-year institutions of higher education. Taking place each April on a college campus, it focuses exclusively on ethical issues in the health and biological sciences.[165] United States
UAB Bioethics Bowl Team at Duke University in 2011
2008 Medical ethics Organization The Center for bioethics and medical humanities is established at the University of Mississippi Medical Center.[166] United States
2009 Biomedicine Organization Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues is established by United States President Barack Obama to advise the president and the administration on bioethical issues arising from advances in biomedicine and related areas of science and technology.[167] United States
2009 General Organization The Bangladesh Bioethics Society is established.[168] Bangladesh
2009 General Literature (book) American scholar Lewis Vaughn publishes Bioethics: Principles, Issues, and Cases, which attempts to explore the philosophical, medical, social, and legal aspects of key bioethical issues.[169][170] United States
2009 General Literature (book) James B. Tubbs publishes Handbook of Bioethics Terms, a glossary-style book describing over 400 entries of importance to the field.[171] United States
2010 General Literature (book) George Annas publishes Worst case bioethics: death, disaster, and public health[172], which examines worst case scenarios in the United States and assesses their impacts on individuals, physicians and the government. It is written at the intersection of law, bioethics, public health, and human rights.[173] United States
2010 Animal rights Literature (book) British ethicist Alasdair Cochrane publishes An Introduction to Animals and Political Theory.[174] United Kingdom
2011 General Literature (journal) Triannual academic journal Narrative Inquiry in Bioethics is first issued.[175]
2011 Religion Literature (book) Australian Catholic Church prelate Anthony Fisher publishes Catholic Bioethics for a New Millennium, which discusses bioethics in the Catholic tradition.[176]
2012 General Organization The Center for the Study of Bioethics is founded by Serbian American philosopher Vojin Rakić with the purpose to stimulate scientific debate on a variety of issues bioethics deals with. It is based in Belgrade, Serbia.[177]
2012 General Literature (journal) The Canadian Journal of Bioethics is established.[178] Canada
2013 Genetic privacy Notable case Israeli-American scientist Yaniv Erlich conducts a study revealing vulnerabilities in the security of public databases that contain genetic data. The stury reports a method to discover the identity of anonymous research subjects whose genomes have been sequenced as part of a genomics project.[179]
2013 DNA extraction Policy The Supreme Court of the United States rules that isolated and purified DNA cannot be patented and that only DNA that has been modified by human beings can be patented.[180] United States
2013 General Literature (book) American bioethicist Arthur Caplan writes Contemporary Debates in Bioethics, which features a collection of debate-style arguments contributed by many bioethics scholars. The book focuses on core bioethical concerns of the twenty-first century.[181] United States
2013 General Literature (book) British bioethicist Alastair V. Campbell publishes Bioethics: The Basics, which introduces to the foundational principles, theories and issues in the study of medical and biological ethics.[182] United Kingdom
2014 Reproducibility Policy Various funding agencies and journals, including the National Institutes of Health, Science, and Nature, take steps to promote reproducibility in science in response to reports that many published studies in the biomedical, behavioral, and physical sciences are not reproducible.[46]
2014 Right to die Policy New Mexico Second District Judge Nan Nash rules that terminally ill patients have the right to aid in dying under the state constitution, i.e., making it legal for a doctor to prescribe a lethal dose of medication to a terminally ill patient.[183] United States
2015 Medical ethics Literature (book) American bioethicist Alice Dreger publishes Galileo's Middle Finger, which discusses the ethics of medical research.[184] United States
2015 Criticism Steven Pinker publishes article at The Boston Globe titled The moral imperative for bioethics, criticizing the field for slowing down scientific research through regulations, moratoria, and threats of prosecution based on "nebulous but sweeping principles" such as dignity, sacredness, or social justice. Pinker also criticizes bioethics for "thwarting research that has likely benefits now or in the near future by sowing panic about speculative harms in the distant future".[185] United States
Steven Pinker
2016 Cryonics Notable case The English High Court rules in favor of a mother's right to seek cryopreservation of her terminally ill 14-year-old daughter, as the girl wanted. This case is interpreted as a conventional dispute over the disposal of the girl's body, as the girl's father opposed cryopreservation.[186] United Kingdom
2016 Criticism American professor John Hoberman criticizes the field of bioethics stating that it lacks diversity in thought, particularly with regards to race, pointing out that bioethicists have been traditionally resistant to expanding their discourse to include sociological and historically relevant applications.[187] United States
John Hoberman
2017 Criticism Finnish historian Heikki Saxén criticizes the field of bioethics, arguing that the diversity of thought and social inclusivity are the two essential cornerstones of the field, albeit they have not been fully realized.[188] Finland
Heikki Saxén
2018 General Literature (book) Canadian bioethicist Francoise Baylis publishes Bioethics in Action, which presents first-person case studies of attempts to fix serious ethical problems in medical practice and research.[189]
2018 Sentientism Literature (book) Alasdair Cochrane publishes Sentientist Politics: A Theory of Global Inter-Species Justice. The book argues in favour of a "sentientist cosmopolitan democracy: a global political system made up of overlapping local, national, regional and global communities comprised of human and non-human members who exist within shared communities of fate".[190] United Kingdom
2019 Biotechnology Notable comment Israeli historian Yuval Noah Harari says that artificial intelligence and biotechnology could destroy what it means to be human, seeing an existential threat in an arms race in artificial intelligence and bioengineering. Harari expresses the need for close co-operation between nations to solve the threats by technological disruption.[191]
2020 Immunity Criticism Harvard bioethicist Natalie Kofler publishes an article discussing "immunity passports" which consist in the idea of issuing authorizations to work and circulate in society for those having antibodies to the coronavirus after recovering from an infection. Kofler argues that this could do more harm than good, as a system that hinges on a blood test could cut off already marginalized populations from access to critical public resources, wherein "an immunoprivileged sort of status or an immunodeprived status" would dictate "where and what they can go do."[192][193] United States
2021 Human subject research Criticism Bryan Caplan writes an article criticizing bioethicists for habitually invoking the Tuskegee Syphilis Study to justify current Human Subjects Review, opposing voluntary human experimentation, and attempting to avoid people from helping others, even if experimental subjects volunteer for no money at all.[194] United States

Numerical and visual data

Mentions on Google Scholar

The following table summarizes per-year mentions on Google Scholar as of May 19, 2021.

Year bioethics cloning bioethics bioethics euthanasia bioethics in nursing bioethics and law bioethics in biotechnology
1980 1,490 28 131 137 395 12
1985 2,200 55 215 230 660 64
1990 3,110 65 506 332 1,020 111
1995 5,960 150 708 732 2,090 273
2000 7,380 784 904 1,180 3,340 801
2002 11,000 1,870 1,050 1,620 4,910 1,700
2004 11,900 1,590 1,090 1,900 5,320 1,730
2006 13,400 1,750 1,270 2,350 6,460 2,020
2008 15,800 1,700 1,430 2,840 7,390 2,090
2010 15,100 1,650 1,490 3,350 8,690 2,410
2012 21,500 4,610 1,580 4,030 13,000 5,710
2014 23,600 1,500 1,730 5,300 12,000 2,740
2016 26,000 1,640 1,980 5,360 12,400 3,330
2017 26,700 1,620 2,000 5,670 13,000 3,350
2018 27,200 1,700 2,140 6,100 13,400 3,610
2019 27,300 1,730 1,910 6,540 14,000 3,780
2020 27,700 1,630 2,330 7,570 16,100 3,930
Bioethics tb.png

Google Trends

The chart below shows Google Trends data comparing Bioethics (field of study) and Bioethics (search term), from January 1, 2004 to December 12, 2020, when the screenshot was taken. A declining interest is appreciated.[195]


The comparative chart below shows Google Trends data for Bioethics (Search term) and Medical ethics (Search term) from January 2004 to February 2021, when the screenshot was taken. Interest is also ranked by country and displayed on world map.[196]

Bioethics compared gt.jpeg

Google Ngram Viewer

The chart below shows Google Ngram Viewer data comparing both "bioethics" and "medical ethics" search strings (case-insensitive), from 1700 to 2019. See how data for "bioethics" starts soaring at around 1960s, which correlates with the birth of bioethics as a distinct field of academic study in the United States.[197]

Bioethics Ngram Viewer.png

Wikipedia Views

The chart below shows Wikipedia views for the article Bioethics for desktop, mobile-web, desktop-spider, mobile-web-spider and mobile app, from July 2015 to December 2020.[198]

Bioethic wv.jpeg

Gallup polls

The charts below shows Gallup polls describing public opinion in the United States regarding moral issues.[199]

How would you.png
Moral and ethical climate.png
Getting worse.png

Meta information on the timeline

How the timeline was built

The initial version of the timeline was written by User:Sebastian.

Funding information for this timeline is available.

Feedback and comments

Feedback for the timeline can be provided at the following places:


What the timeline is still missing

Timeline update strategy

See also

External links


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