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Difference Between Bioethics and Medical Ethics

What are Bioethics and Medical Ethics?

Ethics is a concept that involves system of moral principles recommending the right and wrong conduct. The concepts which it includes are integrity, honesty, choice, conscience, value, moral, right, fairness, and responsibility.

Ethics is a prerequisite part of healthcare system, human medicine and clinical research practically and in terms of disciplinary stream. These are concepts of morality detailed for biomedical technology and human healthcare and are termed as bioethics and medical ethics, respectively.

Both concepts of morality – medical ethics and bioethics ensure that quality medicine, medical treatment and responsible medical rights are offered to the people and their medical protected during the research participation and health morality is irrespective of gender, age, community, race, colour, religion etc.

Medical Ethics and Bioethics are closely associated. The latter is a branch of, or field within, the former.



The science/art that aims at identification, analysis and resolution of the ethical issues in almost any field that is related to human life and health.

It involves learning and gaining knowledge how to balance several risks, benefits, and duties.

Bioethical quandaries happen when different parties have divergent values that trigger to opposing opinions on actions that are appropriate. 


Medical Ethics

Medical ethics in comparison to bioethics emphasizes only on the medical treatment of human beings and is more specific. It involves activity or role-based obligations.


Difference between Bioethics and Medical Ethics



Bioethics is normative ethics applied to applied to moral principles of all biomedical sciences (philosophy, history, law, nursing, medicine and biotechnology). It emphasizes on multidisciplinary realms of philosophy of applied and practical biomedical scientific technologies.

Medical Ethics

Medical ethics is a system of moral principles that apply values and judgments to the practice of medicine. It involves actions based on ethical principles in human healthcare.

The principles of medical ethics involve morals and values that people and healthcare professionals need to take into consideration in case of any conflict or any confusion.



The four principles of bioethics include:

  • Autonomy – Respect for people. Humans are a mean unto themselves and not a means to an end. This encompasses the right to be free to make choices about your body.
  • Beneficence – Obligation to contribute to person’s welfare. Interventions and provisions should provide benefit directly to the patient. This focuses on doing things that are of benefit to another. It requires positive steps to help, and not merely avoiding doing harm.
  • Justice – For health care, this is the distribution of health (and health care) in a fair and equitable manner. This requires attention to prioritization and rationing. There is no one just way to allocate resources, and most systems utilize several prioritization schemes in concert to attempt to achieve a just distribution. 
  • Non-maleficence – Obligation not to inflict harm on other persons. Harm is to be avoided or minimized. Underlying tenet of medical professional mission statements (Hippocratic oath).

Medical Ethics

The principles include;

  • Principle of respect for autonomy – It is also called principle of human dignity and involves obligation to show respect towards the autonomy of other people. As per this principle, competent adults have the right to make informed decisions about their own health interventions.
  • Principle of nonmaleficence – One ought not to inflict evil or harm on patients
  • Principle of beneficence – A positive duty to contribute to the welfare of patients
  • Principle of justice – Justice or fair treatment of patients

Who coined the terms?


The term “bioethics” was coined by Professor Van Rensselaer Potter in 1971 in Kennedy Institute in Washington, D.C.

Medical Ethics

The term was first time coined by Thomas Percival – a physician and author in England. He created the code and pamphlet in 1794 and worked and in 1803, developed an expanded version, in which he coined and created the expressions “medical jurisprudence” and “medical ethics”.



The points of difference between Bioethics and Medical Ethics have been summarized as below:

Bioethics Vs Medical Ethics: Comparison Chart

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References :

[0]Image credit: https://live.staticflickr.com/2326/2885510271_8f70556aef_b.jpg

[1]Image credit: https://live.staticflickr.com/3350/3659712190_f06e50ceba_b.jpg

[2]American Medical Association, & New York Academy of Medicine. (1848). Code of medical ethics. H. Ludwig & Company.

[3]Harris, J. (2006). The value of life: an introduction to medical ethics. Routledge.

[4]Kuhse, H., & Singer, P. (Eds.). (2009). A companion to bioethics (p. XIII). Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.

[5]Mandal, J., Ponnambath, D. K., & Parija, S. C. (2017). Bioethics: A brief review. Tropical parasitology, 7(1), 5.

[6]O'neill, O. (2002). Autonomy and trust in bioethics. Cambridge University Press.

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