J Med Ethics 35:778-780 doi:10.1136/jme.2008.028605
  • Brief report

Does bioethics exist?

  1. L Turner
  1. Correspondence to Leigh Turner, Center for Bioethics, School of Public Health, University of Minnesota, N504 Boynton, 410 Church Street SE, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55455, USA; turne462{at}
  • Received 29 November 2008
  • Revised 17 July 2009
  • Accepted 24 July 2009


Bioethicists disagree over methods, theories, decision-making guides, case analyses and public policies. Thirty years ago, the thinking of many scholars coalesced around a principlist approach to bioethics. That mid-level mode of moral reasoning is now one of many approaches to moral deliberation. Significant variation in contemporary approaches to the study of ethical issues related to medicine, biotechnology and health care raises the question of whether bioethics exists as widely shared method, theory, normative framework or mode of moral reasoning.


  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and Peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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