The Five Best Books on Bioethics

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This page contains a list of the five best books on bioethics. Finding good introductory philosophy books can be difficult for two reasons. First, searching google for recommendations usually doesn’t bring up anything useful. Second, phrases like “best books on bioethics” are ambiguous. One person may be looking for a short, beginner friendly introduction, someone else may want a comprehensive academic overview, a third person may be looking for classic works on bioethics. This list tries to account for this ambiguity by recommending different types of books on bioethics. Here are the best books on bioethics in no particular order:

The Basics of BioethicsRobert M. Veatch

Category: Short Introduction | Length: 224 pages | Published: 2011

The third edition of The Basics of Bioethics continues to provide a balanced and systematic ethical framework to help students analyze a wide range of controversial topics in medicine, and consider ethical systems from various religious and secular traditions. The Basics of Bioethics covers the “Principalist” approach and identifies principles that are believed to make behavior morally right or wrong. It showcases alternative ethical approaches to health care decision making by presenting Hippocratic ethics as only one among many alternative ethical approaches to health care decision-making. The Basics of Bioethics offers case studies, diagrams, and other learning aids for an accessible presentation. Plus, it contains an all-encompassing ethics chart that shows the major questions in ethics and all of the major answers to these questions.

Principles of Biomedical EthicsTom L. Beauchamp & James F. Childress

Category: Comprehensive Textbook | Length: 480 pages | Published: 2012 (7e)

Building on the best-selling tradition of previous editions, Principles of Biomedical Ethics, Seventh Edition, provides a highly original, practical, and insightful guide to morality in the health professions. Acclaimed authors Tom L. Beauchamp and James F. Childress thoroughly develop and advocate for four principles that lie at the core of moral reasoning in health care: respect for autonomy, nonmaleficence, beneficence, and justice. Drawing from contemporary research–and integrating detailed case studies and vivid real-life examples and scenarios–they demonstrate how these prima facie principles can be expanded to apply to various conflicts and dilemmas, from how to deliver bad news to whether or not to withhold or withdraw life-sustaining treatments.

Illuminating both theory and method throughout, Principles of Biomedical Ethics, Seventh Edition, considers what constitutes moral character and addresses the problem of moral status: what rights are due to people and animals, and when. It also examines the professional-patient relationship, surveys major philosophical theories–including utilitarianism, Kantianism, rights theory, and virtue theory–and describes methods of moral justification in bioethics. Ideal for courses in biomedical ethics, bioethics, and health care ethics, the text is enhanced by hundreds of annotated citations and a substantial introduction that clarifies key terms and concepts.

A Companion to Bioethics – Helga Kuhse & Peter Singer

Category: Comprehensive Textbook | Length: 636 pages | Published: 2012 (2e)

This second edition of A Companion to Bioethics, fully revised and updated to reflect the current issues and developments in the field, covers all the material that the reader needs to thoroughly grasp the ideas and debates involved in bioethics.

  • Thematically organized around an unparalleled range of issues, including discussion of the moral status of embryos and fetuses, new genetics, life and death, resource allocation, organ donations, AIDS, human and animal experimentation, health care, and teaching
  • Now includes new essays on currently controversial topics such as cloning and genetic enhancement
  • Topics are clearly and compellingly presented by internationally renowned bioethicists
  • A detailed index allows the reader to find terms and topics not listed in the titles of the essays themselves

The Oxford Handbook of Bioethics – Bonnie Steinbock

Category: Comprehensive Textbook | Length: 768 pages | Published: 2009

Bonnie Steinbock presents The Oxford Handbook of Bioethics –an authoritative, state-of-the-art guide to current issues in bioethics.

Thirty-four contributors reflect the interdisciplinarity that is characteristic of bioethics, and its increasingly international character. Thirty topics are covered in original essays written by some of the world’s leading figures in the field, as well as by some newer “up-and-comers.” The essays address both perennial issues, such as the methodology of bioethics, autonomy, justice, death, and moral status, and newer issues, such as biobanking, stem cell research, cloning, pharmacogenomics, and bioterrorism. Other topics concern mental illness and moral agency, the rule of double effect, justice and the elderly, the definition of death, organ transplantation, feminist approaches to commodification of the body, life extension, advance directives, physician-assisted death, abortion, genetic research, population screening, enhancement, research ethics, and the implications of public and global health for bioethics.

Bioethics: An Anthology – Kuhse, Schüklenk & Singer

Category: Anthology | Length: 800 pages | Published: 2015 (3e)

Now fully revised and updated, Bioethics: An Anthology, 3rd edition, contains a wealth of new material reflecting the latest developments. This definitive text brings together writings on an unparalleled range of key ethical issues, compellingly presented by internationally renowned scholars.

  • The latest edition of this definitive one-volume collection, now updated to reflect the latest developments in the field
  • Includes several new additions, including important historical readings and new contemporary material published since the release of the last edition in 2006
  • Thematically organized around an unparalleled range of issues, including discussion of the moral status of embryos and fetuses, new genetics, neuroethics, life and death, resource allocation, organ donations, public health, AIDS, human and animal experimentation, genetic screening, and issues facing nurses
  • Subjects are clearly and captivatingly discussed by globally distinguished bioethicists
  • A detailed index allows the reader to find terms and topics not listed in the titles of the essays themselves

This list was created by following a method that I’ve found to be useful when searching for introductory philosophy books. It involves:

  • browsing required reading lists on university course syllabi
  • searching for books using the Open Syllabus Project
  • browsing the bibliographies of articles on the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy and Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy
  • searching for recommendations on philosophy forums

The following sources were used to build this list:

University Course Syllabi:

Bibliographies:

Other Recommendations:

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