The Basics of Bioethics: 4th Edition (Hardback) book cover

The Basics of Bioethics

4th Edition

By Robert Veatch, Laura Guidry-Grimes


248 pages | 22 B/W Illus.

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pub: 2019-11-04
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The Basics of Bioethics, Fourth Edition offers an easy-to-follow introduction to this dynamic field, intended for healthcare professionals, teachers, students, and anyone interested in bioethics. Accessible and enjoyable for readers of all backgrounds, the book contains numerous cases – including ones that recently have dominated international headlines – to help anchor the broader discussion. The text is suitable for use in short courses in schools of medicine, nursing, and other health professions; continuing professional education; various undergraduate departments; and adult education. Chapters are organized around common moral themes in order to help readers understand the values and other connections that tie together different positions in bioethics. This Fourth Edition adds a new chapter on alternative frameworks in bioethics, including narrative ethics and casuistry, feminist approaches, care ethics, and virtue ethics. Due to significant advances in genetics and reproductive possibilities, this new edition devotes a full chapter to each. The combined teaching, research, and clinical experience of the two authors helps make this edition current with the evolving field of bioethics, while still embedding the major issues in a systematic framework that allows readers easily to navigate the larger field.

Key Changes to the Fourth Edition:

• An added chapter on new and emerging approaches in bioethics, including those based on virtue ethics, casuistry and narrative ethics, feminist ethics, and care ethics

• Updates throughout the book based on developments in ethical theory and new medical research

• Revisions and updates to the Learning Objectives, Key Terms, References, and URLs

• The addition of multiple recent case studies, including:

    • Jahi McMath
    • an undocumented patient who needs a rule bent
    • a pediatrician who turns away unvaccinated patients
    • a minor eligible for pediatric bariatric surgery
    • a daughter suing a hospital for non-disclosure of her father's Huntington's diagnosis
    • CRISPR-edited newborn babies


"Veatch and Guidry-Grimes have set a new standard for balancing breadth, clarity, and accessibility for introductory texts in healthcare ethics. They impressively cover a wide range of important topics, and they are judicious and fair in their discussion of the many sides to pressing bioethical debates. This text will serve well undergraduate students in general healthcare ethics courses, as well as anyone looking for an up-to-date guide to contemporary debates in bioethics."

Michael J. Deem, Duquesne University

"A good bioethics primer will give a concise skim of basic concepts and still manage to show where there is consensus and disagreement and why. It will introduce new frameworks and provide a range of cases from classic to piping hot fresh. It may well have a point of view, but it will not pretend to be the only possible point of view.This is that primer.

Embedded in the American medical context, The Basics of Bioethics, 4th edition incorporates new approaches to bioethics into the classic bioethics toolkit, includes discussions of end-of-life issues and consent but also of reproduction and genetics, and addresses social aspects of health care including the ever-shifting U.S. policy context. Classic cases like Canterbury and Henrietta Lacks partner with modern ones on weight-loss surgery, CRISPR genetic technology, and the contested end of teenager Jahi McMath’s life. Each chapter stands potentially stands alone and could enrich another primary text—if whatever else you’re reading leaves out virtue ethics, narrative ethics, care ethics, and feminist ethics, there’s a chapter here for that. However, this book is also an effective single text. If you’re looking for an American bioethics primer that doesn’t just retread old ground, but includes fertile new frameworks and topics, this one’s worth your time."

Alison Reiheld, Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville

Table of Contents

1. A Map of the Terrain of Ethics

2. The Hippocratic Oath and Its Challengers: A Brief History

3. The Basis of Moral Standing in Debates on Defining Death, Abortion, Stem Cells, and Animal Welfare

4. Principle-based Approaches to Moral Problems in Bioethics

5. Alternative Approaches: Virtues, Casuistry and Narrative Ethics, Feminist Approaches, and Care Ethics

6. Problems in Benefiting and Avoiding Harm to the Patient

7. The Ethics of Respect for Persons: Lying, Cheating, and Breaking Promises and Why Physicians Have Considered Them Ethical

8. The Principle of Avoiding Killing

9. Death and Dying for Patients Who Are Not Their Own Decision-makers

10. Human Control of Life: Genetics and Modifying Human Nature

11. Reproductive Choice and Advancing Technologies: Ethical Challenges in the Creation of Humans

12. Social Ethics of Medicine: Allocating Resources, Health Insurance, Transplantation, and Human Subjects Research

About the Authors

Robert M. Veatch is Senior Research Scholar and Professor of Medical Ethics, Emeritus, and former Director at the Kennedy Institute of Ethics, Georgetown University. He is the author, co-author, or editor of 60 books including Hippocratic, Religious, and Secular Medical Ethics (2012), Case Studies in Biomedical Ethics (with Amy Haddad and Dan English, 2015), Transplantation Ethics (with Lainie F. Ross, 2015), and Defining Death: The Case for Choice (with Lainie F. Ross, 2016).

Laura K. Guidry-Grimes is Assistant Professor in the Department of Medical Humanities and Bioethics with a secondary appointment in Psychiatry at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. She also works as a clinical ethics consultant at the UAMS Hospital and Arkansas Children's. She co-edited Moral Expertise: New Essays from Theoretical and Clinical Bioethics (with Jamie Carlin Watson, 2018).

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