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The intersection of medical technology, medical practice, and ethical principles has long been an important field of study, but the rapid advance of medical technology has made it perhaps the most important field of ethics today. Every human being is concerned with medicine and health, but they should also be concerned as to whether their health can be maintained in an ethical manner and an ethical environment.

Bioethics is an especially difficult field because it regularly concerns some of the most troubling topics: the nature of life, the nature of death, what sort of life is worth living, what constitutes murder, how we should treat people who are in especially vulnerable and painful circumstances, just what sort of responsibilities any of has to other human beings, and so on. Bioethics is not a wholly independent field - it must, obviously, draw a great deal from other ethical discussions.

At the same time, the way in which medical technology pushes the limits of what we humans can do also pushes the limits of our understanding of such discussions. Medicine today forces us to confront the nature of life and death in a manner that we are not normally accustomed to, but we have to get used to it because it's only going to get worse.

Medicine, Ethics, and Philosophy
Medicine and ethics are by no means strangers - on the contrary, medicine started out as an aspect of early philosophy. What this meant was that was a close integration of medical expertise and medical ethics existed. Those who engaged in research and experiments to determine what could be done in the fight against ill health were also the ones who led the debate over what should be done in that struggle - a very different situation from what we have today where the two tasks tend most often to be separated.

The Need for Bioethics
Is bioethics really such a critical issue for society today? Even if it didn't exist and we had to invent it today, it would involve the application of ethical principles and arguments to medical and biological issues. So what, if anything, is so special or unique about these issues that requires its own field of ethical inquiry?

Principles of Bioethics
Are there any basic principles which discussions of bioethics or medical ethics should ideally start with? The field of bioethics is, after all, very wide ranging - it encompasses just about every ethical issue involving medicine and biology. Without some basic and unifying principles, it would be difficult to imagine considering this a single field of study at all.

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