Honoring the career of KIE Scholar Tom Beauchamp

This spring, the Kennedy Institute of Ethics (KIE) celebrated the career and life in bioethics of Senior Research Scholar Tom Beauchamp on the occasion of his retirement.

Dr. Beauchamp came to Georgetown from his native Texas via Southern Methodist University (BA, MA, 1963), Yale University (BD, 1966), and Johns Hopkins University (PhD, 1970), joining the philosophy faculty just one year before the KIE was established at Georgetown in 1971.

A scant year later, then-director Andre Hellegers petitioned Tom to join the fledgling Institute, an offer Tom credits with “literally redirecting” the course of his life. Tom’s acceptance would leave no less indelible a mark on the KIE—and the field of bioethics—itself.

Joining what would become the world’s oldest academic center for practical ethics let the young scholar apply his singular analytic acumen to issues of social justice. One of the authors of the 1978 Belmont Report revolutionizing the protection of human research subjects, co-author (with wife Ruth Faden) of a pioneering treatise on informed consent, and co-editor of the world’s most comprehensive volume on animal ethics, Tom is one of the most important thinkers on research ethics in his lifetime. His co-authored volume on the principles of biomedical ethics, now in its seventh edition and translated into seven languages, is a cornerstone of medical education worldwide.

Over the course of a nearly fifty-year career, Tom has not only left a mark on the conduct of biomedical research and medical ethics education, but also made significant contributions to business ethics, metaethics, and the history of philosophy. He has been showered with lifetime achievement awards almost too numerous to mention.

In 2011, Beauchamp was given the Lifetime Achievement Award for Excellence in Research Ethics by Public Responsibility in Medicine and Research (PRIM&R). In 2010 he was presented the Henry Beecher Award of the Hastings Center, for a lifetime of contributions to research ethics and other areas of bioethics. In 2004, he was given the Lifetime Achievement Award of the American Society of Bioethics and Humanities (ASBH) in recognition of outstanding contributions and significant publications in bioethics and the humanities. In 2003, he was presented with Georgetown University’s Career Recognition Award, which is awarded to a faculty member in the University each year for distinguished research across an entire career. And all the way back in 1994, Indiana University made Beauchamp the first award winner of its “Memorial Award for Furthering Greater Understanding and Exchange of Opinions between the Professions of Law and Medicine.”

More than this, his razor-sharp teaching and generous mentorship have transformed the lives of generations of students, many of whom now occupy to the highest levels of leadership in ethics, medicine, and administration.

Beauchamp has described the key to his career as intellectual collaboration. Those lucky enough to have worked alongside him understand the truth as well as the humility in this statement. His lifetime of scholarship and public service perfectly embody Georgetown’s mission of life oriented to the public good and the KIE’s commitment to ethics engaged with the real world. He offers a model to inspire generations of moral leaders to come.

At an evening event honoring his career, distinguished speakers (including Georgetown University President Jack DeGioia) offered remarks on Beauchamp’s many contributions. Click below to view.

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