• the harm avoidance tenet (essentially a restatement of the Hippocratic belief): to avoid harming individuals, to minimize the side effects of a design, and not to design something that the bioengineer would not use on him or herself if necessary.

  • the risk tenet: to explicitly weigh risks to human society and environment of a bioengineering device or process.

  • the effectiveness tenet: to make cost and risk of a design or intervention commensurate with expected benefits. At times, the effort expended and the risks of a solution do not yield sufficient benefits to justify its development, yet the development is pursued, for a variety of reasons.

  • the simplicity tenet (an extension to bioengineering of Ockham’s razor): to achieve a goal with means that are as simple as possible, so as to avoid excessively complicated and costly designs.

  • the conflict of interest tenet: not to advocate an unsafe, ineffective, or inferior design because of a vested interest in it.

  • the responsibility tenet: to assume the responsibility to follow up the performance of a design or process and communicate the results, positive or negative; to assume the responsibility for advocating the introduction of a beneficial design or process and the elimination of a dangerous one.

  • the professional tenet: to act as an independent-minded professional, regardless of whatever pressure may be put on a bioengineer by the environment (the hospital, the research laboratory, the factory) and to intervene in professional and public discussions about engineering, medical, biological, and societal issues. Much too often, bioengineers are silent on these issues.


The ethics of bioengineering is one of the most complex and challenging of all ethics, as it must blend the ethics of engineering, biology, medicine, and the physical sciences. To the extent that it can do so, it brings bioengineering to the forefront of human endeavors, as an activity that synthesizes the two most exquisitely human activities—how to understand nature and how to modify it for an ever better future of our species.

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