Bioethics: A Synopsis

- Michael W.Fox, Ph.D.

Vice President/Bioethics and Farm Animals
The Humane Society of the United Sates
2100 L Street, NW, Washington, DC 20037, USA

Eubios Ethics Institute Newsletter 3 (1993), 61.


Bioethics literally means life ethics, the ethics by which we choose to live and relate to the life community of the Earth. It is a holistic philosophy, giving equal and fair consideration to the concerns, interests and rights of humankind, animalkind and the environment. It provides and objective as well as a compassionate and empathetic basis for how we choose to live as individuals, and as a society in terms of public policy, corporate responsibility and professional integrity.

Bioethics embraces two principles: (1) ahimsa (the avoidance of causing harm), and (2) transgenerational equite (concern for future generations). It broadens the scope of responsibilities by incorporating concern for indigenous peoples, minorities, the environment or natural world, and animals wild and domesticated.

The health and sustainable economy triad depicted in Figure 1 illustrates clearly how bioethics relates to the well-being of people, animals and nature (On the three apices of the triangle: Animal well-being; Human well-being; Environmental well-being).

These ecological and ethico-spiritual connections reflect the interdependence of our life support systems and sustainable biotic communities. That we have fabricated non-sustainable bio-industrail economics and communities is evidenced by the possibly irreparable and irreversible environmental harm that we have caused, as well as suffering and extinction in the animal kingdom, and a world community neither free from pestilence nor war nor want.


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