Dr. Tom Beauchamp, recently retired Professor of Philosophy and Senior Research Scholar at the Kennedy Institute of Ethics, was interviewed by Voices in Bioethics, an online journal affiliated with the Columbia University Master of Science in Bioethics program that explores domestic and global ethical issues in the ever-evolving fields of bio-sciences, medicine and public health.
The interview consists of weighty reflections on the history of the field of bioethics, and particularly studies Beauchamp’s involvement in developing that history. Beauchamp, perhaps most widely known for writing the bulk of The Belmont Report (1978) and co-authoring the landmark Principles of Biomedical Ethics textbook, reflects on his early career successes, as well as his recent serious interest in animal research ethics.
Finally, Beauchamp was asked to comment on aspects of the future of medicine that seemed interesting or troublesome to him, to which he cited examples ranging from the conceptual distinction between research and practice to informed consent in clinical medicine to medical pricing, landing finally on the ways in which the field of bioethics will be transformed in the future:
My view is it will no longer be the case that philosophers, religious studies people, lawyers, and so on, who are external to medical institutions, will have a big a role in shaping the field. The bioethics programs in those institutions are now operated by people who came out of training in medicine and public health. That is going to increase in the future. So I believe the field of bioethics is going to change very dramatically. There’s no predicting exactly what will occur. I believe that deans in medical schools, just to take one example, will assert their control over the kind of people who are hired in major bioethics positions. And philosophers and religious studies people will be a very distinct minority. That is the biggest change that is going to occur, in fact, has already begun to occur.