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 founding scholars 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.

The Institute today is a place where ethicists engage in rigorous, sustained conversation with experts and practitioners across disciplines to respond directly and meaningfully to the pressing ethical issues of our time. We offer scholars, students, and educators cutting-edge resources, including a comprehensive Bioethics Research Library, an interdisciplinary journal dedicated to philosophical bioethics, and the Ethics Lab, a one-of-a-kind experiment in ethics education uniting the creativity of designers, the wisdom of ethicists, and the expertise of faculty experts and real-world partners.

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 book review service.

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, and professional and continuing education 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 Ethics Lab course offerings.

Founded on a passion for social justice, the KIE has a proud tradition of public service in Washington, DC and around the world.

When the Institute was founded, old ideas in the medical establishment about clinical research and patient treatment were just beginning to give way in the face of advocacy for the rights of those whose voices were too often omitted from discussions of their treatment and welfare.

The Kennedy family was inspired to help found a bioethics institute by its own enduring commitment to the rights of the intellectually disabled. A founding gift from the Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. Foundation endowed two faculty chairs and provided seed money to help make the now-world-renowned Bioethics Research Library a reality.

We are proud of this origin story, of the role that our scholars played in the patients' rights movement of the 1970s and beyond, and of the way that our scholars and staff have worked to serve the public good since then in numerous roles, from leading the President’s Commission for the Study of Ethical Problems in Medicine & Biomedical Research; to serving on UN advisory boards on climate change, science, and technology; to offering expert advice to the British Parliament, Australian Senate, and US Supreme Court; and much, much more.

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.

Foremost among these is our Ethics Lab, which brings together designers, ethics experts, students, and external partners to make progress on complex moral problems.

The lab is a leader in a suite of design-oriented efforts aimed at revolutionizing learning at Georgetown, and a force for change in ethical problem-solving far beyond it.