Monash Bioethics Review

, Volume 20, Issue 4, pp 30–45 | Cite as

A biocentric approach to issues of life and death

  • Lawrence Johnson


I argue that bioethics needs to focus less exclusively on our character as rational choice-making sentient beings, and take more into account our character and interests as living beings of the sort we are, of which our consciousness is but one aspect I propose that we adopt what I deem a biocentric ethic, centring on our nature and character as living human beings. As I develop them, the central biocentric conceptions are as follows:
  • A living being is best thought of not as a thing but as a living system, an ongoing life-process of a particular sort.

  • Our interests as living beings spring from our particular character and lie in whatever contributes to our coherent effective functioning as ongoing life processes of that character.

  • Our interests encompass our whole being, and not just our character as sentient, conscious, rational, decision-making beings.

I argue that such conceptions can help us deal with matters of bioethical concern, including issues of euthanasia, abortion, autonomy, and perhaps genetic engineering.


Good Interest Moral Issue Environmental Ethic Moral Significance Monash Bioethic Review 
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Copyright information

© Monash University 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lawrence Johnson
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyFlinders UniversityAustralia

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