Van Rensselaer Potter’s "Global Bioethics" defines bioethics as “biology combined with diverse humanistic knowledge forging a science that sets a system of medical and environmental priorities for acceptable survival." Interpreted in this way—as a science of survival—it becomes evident why the ethical agenda of the field might demand an expansive embrace of all of humanity, for it situates the concerns of bioethics beyond the terms of the clinical setting and towards the foundational mechanisms of the survival of a species. In the following paper, Roberto Dell’Oro, Director of the Bioethics Institute at LMU, elucidates the topic of global bioethics, first examining the framework in which authors like Van Rensselaer and Henk Ten Have have positioned the term. He provides his own reflections of the concept, ultimately addressing the implications of "global bioethics" on the field of bioethics we know today. See below for the full text.

Dr. Dell Oro's Paper:



          The bioethics literature has seen, recently, new discussions about global bioethics.  The notion has emerged, somewhat polemically, out of a concern for the narrow development of official bioethical discourse, mainly defined by the success of the American version of bioethics.  The latter has asserted itself only progressively, yet surely, either in the four-principle version of Beauchamp and Childress, or in analogous incarnations. Common to them all is the stress on the centrality of liberal values, like autonomy and informed consent, and a utilitarian understanding of beneficence in terms of value maximization and rational calculation of risks and benefits.

          In light of such development, the notion of global bioethics must be cleared of the potential misunderstandings associated with a twofold narrative, which Henk ten Have and Bert Gordijn refer to as the “story of exportation” and the “story of invention.”  According to the story of exportation, global bioethics functions as a foil for the unspoken attempt to further advertise the western, and more specifically American, conception of ethics, thus turning the latter into a global narrative. Click here to read Dr. Dell'Oro's full article. 

Roberto Dell'Oro, PhD

Dr. Roberto Dell'Oro is the director of the Bioethics Institute and professor in the Department of Theological Studies at Loyola Marymount University. Dr. Dell'Oro teaches in the areas of bioethics, fundamental moral theology, and ethical theories, with special interest in anthropological themes at the crossroads of theology and philosophy.

Related Resources:


Pope Francis's Encyclical Letter 

Laudato Si' 

Van Rensselaer Potter's 

Bioethics: Bridge To The Future

Read UNESCO'S Universal Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights here

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