Bioethics is a branch of applied ethics that studies the philosophical, social, and legal issues arising in medicine and the life sciences. It is chiefly concerned with human life and well-being, though it sometimes also treats ethical questions relating to the nonhuman biological environment. (Such questions are studied primarily in the independent fields of environmental ethics [see environmentalism] and animal rights.)
Bioethics is more or less equivalent to medical ethics, or biomedical ethics. The term medical ethics itself has been challenged, however, in light of the growing interest in issues dealing with health care professions other than medicine, in particular nursing. The professionalization of nursing and the perception of nurses as ethically accountable in their own right have led to the development of a distinct field known as nursing ethics. Accordingly, health care ethics has come into use as a more inclusive term. Bioethics, however, is broader than this, because some of the issues it encompasses concern not so much the practice of health care as the conduct and results of research in the life sciences, especially in areas such as cloning and gene therapy (see clone and genetic engineering), stem cell research, xenotransplantation (animal-to-human transplantation), and human longevity
Although there have been discussions of moral issues in medicine since ancient times, bioethics emerged as a distinct field of study in the early 1960s.
bioethics. (2013). In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved from http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/65851/bioethics
medical ethics. (2013). In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved from http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/372236/medical-ethics