Timeline of medical ethics

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This is a timeline of medical ethics.

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Time period Development summary More details
1960 "In the 1960s, the Hippocratic Oath was changed to require "utmost respect for human life from its beginning", making it a more secular obligation, not to be taken in the presence of God or any gods, but before only other people." "By the 1960s, however, a wide range of new ethical problems came rushing into view, all of them driven by spectacular advances in medicine and biology. "[1]

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Google Trends

The image below shows Google Trends data for Medical ethics (Topic), from January 2004 to March 2021, when the screenshot was taken. Interest is also ranked by country and displayed on world map.[2]

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Google Ngram Viewer

The chart below shows Google Ngram Viewer data for Medical ethics, from 1700 to 2019.[3]

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Wikipedia Views

The chart below shows pageviews of the English Wikipedia article Medical ethics, on desktop, mobile-web, desktop-spider, mobile-web-spider and mobile app, from July 2015 to February 2021.[4]

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Full timeline

Year Main topic Event type Details Location
275 AD Medical oath Hippocratic Oath. "The oldest partial fragments of the oath date to circa AD 275."[5]
1588 Pope Sixtus V adopts a papal bull adopting the position of Thomas Aquinas that contraception and abortion are crimes against nature and sins against marriage.[6]
1775 – 1780 Field development German philosopher Immanuel Kant in his lectures on ethics argues against the sale of human body parts.[7]
1779 Field development German physician Johann Peter Frank writes strict ethical guidelines for public health and sanitation to improve the quality of life. Germany
Johann Peter Frank
1794 Field development English physician Thomas Percival writes first modern code of medical ethics.[8][9] United Kingdom
Thomas Percival
1796 Case study English physician Edward Jenner inoculates eight-year-old James Phipps with fluid from a cowpox pustule to immunize him against smallpox.[10][11] United Kingdom
Edward Jenner
1847 Policy The American Medical Association adopts its first code of ethics, with this being based in large part upon the work of Thomas Percival.[12] United States
1874 Notable case "Robert Bartholomew inserts electrodes into a hole in the skull of Mary Rafferty caused by a tumor. He notes that small amounts electric current caused bodily movements and that larger amounts caused pain. Rafferty, who was mentally ill, fell into a coma and died a few days after the experiment."[13]
1885 Notable case French biologist Louis Pasteur administers an experimental rabies vaccine to nine-year-old Joseph Meister without testing it on animals first.[14][15][16] France
1897 Notable case Italian bacteriologist Giuseppe Sanarelli injects the yellow fever bacteria into five patients without their consent. All the patients develop the disease and three die.[17][18][19] Italy
1900 Notable case United States Army scientist Walter Reed gathers volunteers in Cuba willing to be bitten by mosquitoes to see whether the insects carried yellow fever.[20] Thirty-three participants, including eighteen Americans and six Cubans, are exposed to mosquitoes infected with yellow fever or injected with blood from yellow fever patients. Six participants die.[21][22][23] Cuba
1918 – 1922 Notable case Inmates at San Quentin State Prison in California are subjected to numerous medical procedures, including receiving transplanted testicles from recently executed prisoners. During the research, headed by Dr. Leo L. Stanley, many men receive transplanted sex organs from rams, goats, and boars.[24] United states
1920 Policy (reproductive rights) Vladimir Lenin legalizes all abortions in the Soviet Union[25][26] Soviet Union
1932 Notable case The Tuskegee syphilis experiment begins. Carried out by the Public Health Service at the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, the experiment would last 40 years. Nearly 400 hundred of the 600 poor, rural sharecroppers taking part would never be told they had syphilis, nor be treated for it. Instead, they would be given “free healthcare,” meals, and burial money as researchers study how untreated syphilis progress.[24][27][28][29] United States
1932 Literature (journal) Peer-reviewed academic journal The Linacre Quarterly is established. It primarily focuses on the relationship between medicine and spirituality, and in particular on medical ethics.[30] United States
1932–1945 Notable case Japanese scientists working at Unit 731 conduct abominable experiments on thousands of Chinese war prisoner. Experiments include biological and chemical weapons experiments, vaccination experiments, and wound-healing and surgical studies, including vivisections.[31] China
1937 Literature Scottish novelist A. J. Cronin publishes The Citadel, which becomes notable for its treatment of the contentious theme of medical ethics.[32] It is credited with laying the foundation in Great Britain for the introduction of the NHS a decade later.[33] United Kingdom
1938 Medical oath The Osteopathic Oath is first used in the United States.[34] United States
1940s Notable case Scientists test mustard gas by compelling U.S. Navy men to enter gas chambers. One goes temporarily blind. When nitrogen mustard is discovered, doctors inject it into a patient dying of lymphosarcoma and notice that his tumors recede, sparking the beginning of chemotherapy. United States
1943–1944 Medical torture Nazi human experimentation, with Josef Mengele as central leader, is conducted in this period, consisting in morally abominable research on concentration camp prisoners, including experiments exposing subjects to freezing temperatures, low air pressures, ionizing radiation and electricity, and infectious diseases; as well as wound-healing and surgical studies.[35] German-occupied Europe
1945 "829 pregnant women at a health clinic run by Vanderbilt University were administered drugs that they were told were good for them and their babies. The drugs actually contain radioactive iron." United States
1946 "Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers fed oatmeal that included radioactive iron and calcium to 74 mentally deficient and disabled boys at the Walter E. Fernald State School in Massachusetts." United States
1946 – 1948 Notable case Guatemala syphilis experiment is conducted by the United States, during the administration of U.S. President Harry S. Truman and Guatemalan President Juan José Arévalo with the cooperation of some Guatemalan health ministries and officials. A team of U.S. doctors infect 700 Guatemalans with syphilis to test penicillin.[20] Guatemala
1947 Treaty The Nuremberg Code is adopted as a set of research ethics principles for human experimentation. It is set as a result of the Subsequent Nuremberg trials at the end of the Second World War.[36] Germany
1948 Medical code adoption The Declaration of Geneva is adopted by the World Medical Association.[37][38] Switzerland
1949 Organization The Council for International Organizations of Medical Sciences is established.[39][40]
1953 Notable case The Project MKUltra is officially sanctioned as a program of experiments on human subjects designed and undertaken by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, some of which would be illegal. Experiments on humans would be intended to identify and develop drugs and procedures to be used in interrogations in order to weaken the individual and force confessions through mind control.[41] United States
1954 Medical oath A new version of the Osteopathic Oath is adopted in the United States.[34][42] United States
1954 Literature (book) Joseph F. Fletcher publishes Morals and Medicine: The Moral Problems of the Patient’s Right to Know the Truth, Contraception, Artificial Insemination, Sterilization, and Euthanasia.[43][36]
1956–1980 Notable case Research team led by Saul Krugman and Joan Giles conducts hepatitis experiments on mentally disabled children at The Willowbrook State School. The subjects are intentionally infected with the disease and researchers ovserve its natural progression. The experiments are approved by the New York Department of Health.[44][45] United States
1956 – 1970 Notable case Mentally retarded children held at the Willowbrook State School in Staten Island, New York are infected with hepatitis so that doctors there could track the spread of the viral infection and how it responds to gamma globulin injections. More than 700 children are infected. The school closes later in 1987 after public outcry about overcrowding and the filthy conditions.[24] United States
1959 Literature (book) Immanuel Jakobovits publishes Jewish Medical Ethics: A Comparative and Historical Study of the Jewish Religious Attitude to Medicine and Its Practice.[46]
1960s Notable case Experimentation in prisons become widespread in the United States, which becomes the only Western country that runs tests on inmates after World War II.[20] United States
1961 Case study The Milgram Experiment is conducted to test how far a subject would go to earn approval of an authority figure. The experiment is thought to violate many ethical standards due to extenuating emotional conflict and stress.[47][48]
1964 Treaty The Declaration of Helsinki is created in order to provide researchers and physicians with ethical guidelines. It is developed for the medical community by the World Medical Association.[36][49] The document comprises a set of ethical principles regarding human experimentation.[50] It is widely regarded as the cornerstone document on human research ethics.[50][51][52] Finland
1964 Medical oath adoption American physician Louis Lasagna writes a modernized version of the Hippocratic Oath, which emphasizes a holistic and compassionate approach to medicine. The "Lasagna Oath" would be adopted by many medical colleges, and is still in use today in the United States.[53] United States
1966 Organization The Schlesinger Institute for Medical-Halachic Research is founded.[54][55] Israel
1966 Organization The first medical ethics committees in Europe emerge in the United Kingdom and Sweden.[56] United Kingdom, Sweden
1966 Field development American anesthesiologist Henry K. Beecher publishes an article in The New England Journal of Medicine exposing 22 unethical studies in biomedicine, including the Tuskegee syphilis experiment and the Willowbrook hepatitis study.[57][58][59] United States
1970 Literature Paul Ramsey publishes The Patient as Person: Explorations in Medical Ethics.[60][36]
1973 Literature (journal) The Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics is first issued.[61]
1974 Policy The United States Congress passes the National Research Act, which authorizes federal agencies to develop human research regulations.[62] United States
1975 Literature (journal) The American Journal of Law & Medicine is launched.[63] United States
1975 Literature (journal) The Journal of Medical Ethics is launched.[64][65]
1975 Right to die Social movement The right to die movement begins in the United States with the case of Karen Quinlan, an American woman who was in persistent vegetative state for ten years.[66] United States
1978 Notable case Louise Brown becomes the world’s first baby conceived by in vitro fertilization.[67][68][57] United Kingdom
1978 Medical torture Medical torture is performed on seventeen political prisoners held at the infamous prison Tuol Sleng in Phnom Penh under the Khmer Rouge. Cambodia
1978 Organization The International Committee of Medical Journal Editors is formed.[69]
1979 Publication The Belmont Report is published by the U.S. National Commission for the Protection of Human Subjects of Biomedical and Behavioral Research. It provides the conceptual foundation for a major revision of the research regulations in 1981 in the United States.[70][71]
1979 Literature Peer-reviewed academic journal IRB: Ethics & Human Research is launched.[72]
1979 Organization The Swiss Academy of Medical Sciences officially establishes its own private central ethical committee.[56] Switzerland
1979 Organization Albert Gnaegi Center for Health Care Ethics[73][74] United States
1979 Publication The Belmont Report is released by the National Commission for the Protection of Human Subjects of Biomedical and Behavioral Research. The Report becomes a key document in human research ethics regulations in the United States.[57][75] United States
1979 Literature (book) Tom Beauchamp publishes Principles of biomedical ethics.[76]
1980 Literature (journal) Bimonthly peer-reviewed medical journal Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics is first issued.[77]
1981 Organization Japan establishes its first ethics committee, at the Medical Institute of Tokyo University.[56] Japan
1981 Organization MacLean Center for Clinical Medical Ethics[78][79] United States
1983 Literature (book) Patient abuse "Shannon JM Patient abuse law: the reality (1983)"
1985 Literature (book) Zhi-zheng Du's Outline of Medical Ethics is published in China as the first systematic textbook of medical ethics after the cultural revolution of the 1960s and 1970s.[80] China
1985 Literature (book) Tom Beauchamp James Childress Principles of Biomedical Ethics
1987 Organization The European Society for Philosophy of Medicine and Health Care is founded by an international company of philosophers, physicians, ethicists and other interested professionals in the field.[81]
1988 Literature (book) Zhao-xiong He's History of Chinese Medical Morality is published, providing material on medical ethics from ancient to current China.[80] China
1989 Literature (journal) Peer-reviewed academic journal Accountability in Research is established.[82]
1990 Program launch The Human Genome Project is launched by the United States as a US$20 billion effort to map and sequence the human genome.[83][84] United States
1990 Notable case American physician William French Anderson begins the first human gene therapy clinical trial on patients with adenosine deaminase deficiency, a genetic disease that affects the immune system.[85][86] United States
1991 Policy "The 1991 Patient Self-Determination Act passed by the US Congress at the request of the financial arm of Medicare does permit elderly Medicare/Medicaid patients (and by implication, all "terminal" patients) to prepare an advance directive in which they elect or choose to refuse life-extending and/or life-saving treatments as a means of shortening their lives to shorten their suffering unto certain death. The treatment refused in an advance directive under US law, because of the 1991 PSDA, does not have to be proved to be "medically futile" under some existing due-process procedure developed under state laws, such as TADA in Texas."[87] United States
1992 Code of Conduct for the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and NGOs in Disaster Relief[88]
1992 Literature (journal) Peer-reviewed academic journal Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics is established.[89] United Kingdom
1993 Literature (journal) The Indian Journal of Medical Ethics is launched.[90] India
1993 Notable case Researchers successfully clone human embryos.[57]
1993 Literature (journal) Peer-reviewed law review Medical Law International is established. It covers issues in medical law, bioethics, and health governance. United States
1994 Case study Montreal surgeon Roger Poisson admits to fabricating and falsifying patient data in NIH-funded breast cancer clinical trials in order allow his patients to qualify for enrollment and have access to experimental treatments.[91][92] Canada
1994 Notable case The United States Government declassifies information about secret human radiation experiments conducted from the 1940s-1980s and issues an apology.[57] United States
1994 Organization The Advisory Committee on Human Radiation Experiments is formed to investigate questions of the record of the United States government with respect to human radiation experiments.[93][94] United States
1994 Literature (journal) The European Journal of Health Law is first issued.[95] Netherlands
1994 Literature (journal) Peer-reviewed academic journal Nursing Ethics is first issued.[96] United Kingdom
1994 Literature (book) American philosophers Tom Beauchamp and James Childress publish The principles of biomedical ethics, in which they state their basic principles of bioethics as "the principle of respect for patient autonomy, which has grounded, in particular, the concept of informed consent; dates back to the Hippocratic principle of “do no harm,” which requires minimization of damage to the patient during the medical intervention; the principle of “do good” (beneficence), emphasizing the physician’s responsibility to take positive steps to improve the condition of the patient; and the principle of justice, emphasizing the need for fairness and equal treatment of patients, and equitable distribution of resources (which are always limited) in the provision of medical care".[97] United States
1995 Notable case "Clinical governance became important in health care after the Bristol heart scandal in 1995, during which an anaesthetist, Dr Stephen Bolsin, exposed the high mortality rate for paediatric cardiac surgery at the Bristol Royal Infirmary."
1997 Notable case United States President Bill Clinton formally apologizes on behalf of the United States to victims of the syphilis study at Tuskegee.[98][99] United States
1997 Treaty Universal Declaration on the Human Genome and Human Rights[100][101]
1997 Piety homicide Policy The Constitutional Court of Colombia decriminalises piety homicide, for terminally ill patients, stating that "the medical author cannot be held responsible for the assisted suicide of a terminally ill patient" and urges Congress to regulate voluntary euthanasia "in the shortest time possible".[102] Colombia
1997 Policy "As the health of citizens is considered a police power left for individual states to regulate, it was not until 1997 that the US Supreme Court made a ruling on the issue of assisted suicide and one's right to die. That year, the Supreme Court heard two appeals arguing that New York and Washington statutes that made physician-assisted suicide a felony violated the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment."[103] United States
1998 Biomedical research Literature (book) American bioethicist Baruch Brody publishes The Ethics of Biomedical Research United States
1998 Literature (journal) Medicine Health Care and Philosophy is launched by the European Society For Philosophy Of Medicine And Healthcare.[81]
1998 Notable case Methods for growing human embryonic stem cells are perfected. Some countries ban the research; others promote it.[57][104][105][106]
1998 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.[57]
1998 Literature (journal) Quarterly peer-reviewed medical journal Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy is launched.[107]
1999 Organization Human Genetics Alert is founded in London.[108] It advocates against uses of reproductive technology and human genetics research that it considers harmful.[109]
1999 Policy The National Institutes of Health and the Office for Human Research Protections require all people conducting or overseeing human subjects research have some training in research ethics.[57] United States
1999 Policy The United States National Institutes of Health and the Office for Human Research Protections require all people conducting or overseeing human subjects research to have training in research ethics.[57] United States
2000 Organization The Office for Human Research Protections is established.[110] United States
2000 Treaty The Declaration of Helsinki is revised.[111] Finland
2000 Literature (book) American lawyer and author Wesley J. Smith publishes Culture of Death: The Assault on Medical Ethics in America, which describes medical ethics as a field in crisis. This book would be named Best Health Book of the Year at the 2001 Independent Publishers Book Awards.[112][113] United States
2001 Notable case The United States Government announces that the National Institutes of Health will fund research on approximately 64 embryonic stem cell lines created from leftover human embryos.[57] United States
2001 Literature (journal) Yale Journal of Health Policy, Law, and Ethics is launched.[114] United States
2001 Notable case The United States Congress starts debating legislation on human cloning.[57][115][116][117] United States
2001 Policy "The Bush Administration announces that the NIH will only fund human embryonic stem cell research on approximately 64 cell lines created from leftover human embryos."[118][119]
2002 Notable case The Netherlands legalizes voluntary euthanasia.[120][121] Netherlands
2003 Publication 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.[122][123]
2003 Literature (book) Tony Hope publishes Medical Ethics and Law: The Core Curriculum, a short textbook of medical ethics and law primarily aimed at medical students.[124]
2003 Organization The Regenerative Medicine Institute[125][126] Ireland
2004 Literature Medical ethicist James Hughes publishes Citizen Cyborg: Why Democratic Societies Must Respond to the Redesigned Human of the Future, which argues that technologies pushing the boundaries of humanness can radically improve our quality of life if they are controlled democratically.[127]
2004 Literature (book) Nicholas Agar publishes Liberal Eugenics: In Defence of Human Enhancement[128][129]
2004 eTBLAST is established. It is a search engine designed to search similar texts within the MEDLINE database. eTBLAST would lead to research involving plagiarism and duplicate publications of articles in academic journals.[130][131]
2005 Treaty The Universal Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights is adopted by UNESCO.[132][133]
2006 Literature (journal) Quarterly peer-reviewed academic journal Clinical Ethics is launched.[134] United States
2006 Literature (journal) The Journal of Empirical Research on Human Research Ethics is launched.[135]
2007 "The World Health Organization (2007) states that provision of circumcision should be consistent with "medical ethics and human rights principles." They state that "[i]nformed consent, confidentiality and absence of coercion should be assured. ... Parents who are responsible for providing consent, including for the circumcision of male infants, should be given sufficient information regarding the benefits and risks of the procedure in order to determine what is in the best interests of the child.""[136]
2008 Publication The Catholic Church publishes a document entitled Dignitas Personae, about a range of bioethical issues related to the areas of assisted reproduction and human genetics. The paper analizes and comments the bioethical thinking of the Catholic Church.[137][138][139]
2008 Literature (book) Evidence-Based Medical Ethics: Cases for Practice-Based Learning
2008 Literature (journal) Triannual peer-reviewed academic journal Neuroethics is launched.[140]
2008 Literature (journal) Triannual peer-reviewed academic journal Public Health Ethics is launched.[141]
2009 Policy The Obama Administration announces it will significantly expand National Institutes of Health funding of human embryonic stem cell research which was restricted under the Bush Administration.[57][142] United States
2010 Literature (book) Nicholas Agar publishes Humanity's End: Why We Should Reject Radical Enhancement. The book argues against the doctrine of radical enhancement sometimes identified with the transhumanist movement.[143]
2016 The United States National Institutes of Health places a temporary moratorium on funding for experiments involving human-animal chimeras.[144] United States
2016 Medical torture A group consisting of 71 British medical doctors urge that Israel's membership in the World Medical Association should be revoked, alleging that Israeli doctors perform state-endorsed "medical torture" on Palestinians.[145]
2016 Medical malpractice "A 2016 survey of US physicians found that 8.2 percent of physicians under the age of forty reported having been sued for malpractice during their careers, with 49.2 percent of physicians over the age of 54 reporting having been sued."[146] United States
2018 The Supreme Court of India legalizes passive euthanasia in the country during a case involving Aruna Shanbaug, a nurse who spent 37 years in a vegetative state as a result of sexual assault.[147][148] India
2018 "In October, He Jiankui, a scientist of the Southern University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen, China, announces the birth of the world’s first gene edited babies, both girls. He claims that he used CRISPR-Cas 9 technology to modify the CCR5 gene to give the girls immunity to HIV. The announcement generates outrage around the world and many scientists and policymakers call for a ban on human germline, genome editing."[149][150][151] China

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External links


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