The Kennedy Institute of Ethics is a center for practically engaged ethics at Georgetown University. Established in 1971 with a founding interest in medical ethics, it is one of the oldest academic ethics centers in the world.

Our founders helped to invent the field of bioethics—the ethics of health, the environment, and emerging technology—from the ground up, and we strive to carry on that tradition of creative leadership today through world-class research, teaching, public service, and a spirit of continuous experimentation.

Our Areas of Effort


We are committed to philosophical depth and integrity in practical ethics.

With a founding interest in medical ethics, our scope ranges across practical ethics broadly construed, including ethical issues in science policy, emerging technologies, climate studies, public health, and critical studies of oppression and justice. KIE scholars have authored some of the foundational texts in bioethics, and have received numerous awards and grants, including over a dozen lifetime achievement awards.

This commitment to deep scholarship is also manifest in our Bioethics Research Library, the largest collection of bioethics resources in the world; our visiting researcher program, which draws scholars from around the world each year; and in our institute journal, which has long been a venue for longer-form philosophical articles and has recently begun an online-print hybrid book review program.

We help train the next generation of moral leadership in bioethics and beyond.

Students are the heart of any university, and this is especially true at Georgetown. The university mission of educating “men and women for others” with a capacity for “ethics engaged in the real world” makes the KIE a central part of campus intellectual life.

We are proud to sponsor learning opportunities at all levels, from high-school students through to graduate students and beyond.

We invite you to learn more about our undergraduate, graduate, professional, and global classes and events, and meet KIE graduates who now occupy some of the highest levels of leadership in bioethics and related fields.

You can also explore the ways the KIE is experimenting with design-driven, technology-enhanced on-campus learning by checking out our growing list of experiments in education.

The KIE has a proud tradition of public service in Washington, DC and around the world.

Service Icon

Our scholars and staff have served the public as, among other things:

  • Consultant to the President’s Commission for the Study of Ethical Problems in Medicine & Biomedical Research
  • Appointed members the UN's COMEST advisory boards on climate change, science, and technology
  • Expert advisor to the British Parliament, Australian Senate, and US Supreme Court on end of life issues
  • Members of the Privacy Working Group of the US Health Care Task Force
  • Chair and members of the Recombinant DNA Advisory Committee at the National Institutes of Health

The KIE’s history is a story of invention; our present is one of reinvention.

KIE scholars created the first bioethics research library, the first scholarly bioethics journal, the first encyclopedia of bioethics, the first official bibliography of bioethics.

This tradition of creative leadership continues today with a variety of experimental initiatives which challenge and reinterpret what practical ethics can do and be.

We believe in ethics “beyond the soundbite.”

Real-life ethical issues—from perennial questions about health, life, and death, to new challenges posed by technological advances and cultural shifts—deserve sustained attention and careful thought.

Practical moral problems demand action and rigorous reflection at the very same time.

Our teaching, research, service, and ongoing experiments all strive to find that balance between theory and action, because

a morally complex world needs
practically engaged ethics.

Carrying a legacy of creative leadership into the twenty-first century.

Join us as we continue reinventing what engaged ethics can do, and pursuing our mission to promote deep scholarship, educate the next generation of moral leaders, engage meaningfully with the community around us, and help better the world we have inherited.

To me the Kennedy Institute is the meeting ground of past, present, and future.

It is the best of philosophy in its depth of inquiry.

It's the best of Georgetown in its commitment to conversation for the common good.

And it is the very embodiment of an emergent, forward-looking, interdisciplinary field where theory, practice, policy, and innovation all come together.

— Vice Provost for Education Randy Bass, Georgetown University, February 2014

Kennedy Institute of Ethics, Georgetown University, 3700 O ST NW, WASHINGTON, DC, 20057, USA