Bioethics has grown in popularity in the recent years, and it has emerged quickly from its humble beginnings as a self-standing field, in the middle of the 19th century. However, the ethical relations between physicists and patients have been described and regulated by Hippocratic Oath, 500 years before Christ. Also, some of the most important pillars of this field, such as doctor to patient confidentiality and the interdiction of exploitation have been much criticized in the recent years.
The term broadly covers issues from the fields of medical, animal rights and environmental ethics. Although these fields seem very separate at first glance, many of the moral concepts, issues and laws arise from the same root. The main topics approached by bioethics are xenotransplantation, cloning, abortion, research with stem cells, and the moral issues of doing experiments on animals. Today, many public manifestations have started debates around these subjects, and are still receiving different emotional responses.
In general, bioethics is a law that controls the liberty in the fields of science, medicine, biology, genetics, biochemistry and biophysics. Bioethics is intended to protect vital and moral issues in the context of harm, rationality and humanitarian spirit.
In general, bioethics relies on four structural pillars: autonomy, no maleficence, beneficence and justice. Together, they form the moral support of each field.
- Autonomy is a law that states that each individual has the right to make his/her own decisions.
- Non-maleficence refers to the idea that at all times and in all situations, one has to avoid causing harm to others.
- Beneficence is the element which states that all actions should be undertaken with the purpose of helping others.
- Justice keeps the line between risks and benefits, and tries to protect the ones in need.
The moral backbone and DNA of bioethics built on these four principles, which justify all the decisions made in this field.