Biomedicine and Bioethics

  • Heiner FangerauEmail author
  • Gisela Badura-Lotter


The historical development of so-called ‘biomedicine’ is closely linked to the rise and evolution of new ethical fields, such as bioethics and medical ethics. In this chapter, we explain what is understood by ‘biomedicine’ today, highlight the major steps in the development of biomedicine, and discuss its association with the evolution of basic ethical theories into applied ethical arguments. Both biomedicine and bioethics have left their traces and were transformed in popular cultural products, including games and film. We will show how bioethics and biomedicine can be used to analyse these products and reveal their potential contributions to actual debates about the problems, fears, and hopes associated with certain biomedical technologies — debates that are set within the triad of biomedicine, bioethical reasoning, and popular culture.


  1. Abir-Am, Pnina G. 2002. The Rockefeller Foundation and the rise of molecular biology. Nature Reviews Molecular Biology 3: 65–70.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Amsterdamska, Olga. 2004. Research at the hospital of the Rockefeller Institute for medical research. In Creating a tradition of biomedical research: Contributions to the history of the Rockefeller University, ed. D.H. Stapleton, 111–126. New York: Rockefeller University Press.Google Scholar
  3. Armstrong, David. 1988. Space and time in British general practice. In Biomedicine examined, ed. M. Lock and D.R. Gordon, 207–225. Dordrecht: Kluwer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Beauchamp, Tom L., and James F. Childress. 2013. Principles of biomedical ethics. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  5. Bentham, Jeremy. 2007 [1789]. An introduction to the principles of morals and legislation. New York: Dover philosophical classics.Google Scholar
  6. Blackburn, Simon. 2003. Being good. A short introduction to ethics. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bolt, Timo. 2015. A doctor’s order. The Dutch case of evidence-based medicine (1970–2015). Antwerp: Garant.Google Scholar
  8. Broadie, Sarah, and Christopher J. Rowe. 2002. Aristotle, Nicomachean ethics. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  9. Charpa, Ulrich. 2012. Synthetic biology and the golem of Prague: Philosophical reflections on a suggestive metaphor. Perspectives in Biology and Medicine 55 (4): 554–570.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Clarke, Adele E., Janet K. Shim, Laura Mamo, Jennifer Ruth Fosket, and Jennifer R. Fishman. 2003. Biomedicalization: Technoscientific transformations of health, illness, and U.S. biomedicine. American Sociological Review 68 (2): 161–194.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Dans, Peter. 2000. Doctors in the movies: Boil the water and just say aah. Bloomington: Medi-Ed Press.Google Scholar
  12. Dorland, William Alexander Newman. 1923. The American illustrated medical dictionary. Philadelphia: W. B. Saunders.Google Scholar
  13. Elliott, Richard. 2012. The medialization of regenerative medicine: Frames and metaphors in UK news stories. In The sciences’ media connection –public communication and its repercussions, ed. S. Rödder, M. Franzen, and P. Weingart, 87–105. Dordrecht: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Fangerau, Heiner. 2012. Monism, racial hygiene, and national socialism. In Monism. Science, philosophy, religion, and the history of a worldview, ed. T. Weir, 223–247. New York: Palgrave.Google Scholar
  15. ———. 2016. Tierforschung unter mechanistischen Vorzeichen. Jacques Loeb, Tropismen und das Vordenken des Behaviorismus. In Philosophie der Tierforschung Band 1: Methoden und Programme, ed. M. Böhnert, K. Köchy, and M. Wunsch, 183–207. München: Karl Alber Verlag.Google Scholar
  16. ———. 2017. Experimental biology and the biomedical ideal around the year 1900. In Vivarium. Experimental, quantitative, and theoretical biology at Vienna’s Biologische Versuchsanstalt, ed. G.B. Müller, 77–94. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  17. Flanagan, Mary, and Helen Fay Nissenbaum. 2014. Values at play in digital games. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  18. Gaudillière, Jean-Paul. 2002. Inventer la biomédecine: la France, l’ Amérique et la production des savoirs du vivant (1945–1965). Paris: Éd. La Découverte.Google Scholar
  19. Gert, Bernard. 1998. Morality – its nature and justification. New York/Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  20. Görgen, Arno, and Matthis Krischel. 2012. Dystopien von Medizin und Wissenschaft: Retro-Science-Fiction und die Kritik an der Technikgläubigkeit der Moderne im Computerspiel BioShock. In eds. Fraunholz U and Woschech A, 271–288. Bielefeld: transcript. In Technology fiction: Technische Visionen und Utopien in der Hochmoderne, 271–88. Bielefeld: Transcript.Google Scholar
  21. Green, Amy M. 2016. The reconstruction of morality and the evolution of naturalism in the last of us. Games and Culture 11 (7–8): 745–763.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Gregor, Mary, and Jens Timmermann. 2011. Groundworks of the metaphysics od morals. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  23. Hansen, Bert. 2009. Picturing medical progress from Pasteur to polio: A history of mass media images and popular attitudes in America. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press.Google Scholar
  24. Holody, Kyle J., Christina Anderson, Clay Craig, and Mark Flynn. 2016. “Drunk in love”: The portrayal of risk behavior in music lyrics. Journal of Health Communication 21 (10): 1098–1106.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Huxley, Thomas Henry. 1881. An address on the connection of the biological sciences with medicine. British Medical Journal 2 (1076): 273–276.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Jacobs, Naomi. 2003. Posthuman bodies and agency in Octavia Butler’s ‘Xenogenesis. In Dark horizons: Science fiction and the dystopian imagination, ed. R. Baccolini and T. Moylan, 91–111. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  27. Keating, Peter, and Alberto Cambrosio. 2003. Biomedical platforms: Realigning the normal and the pathological in late-twentieth-century medicine. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  28. ———. 2004. Does biomedicine entail the successful reduction of pathology to biology? Perspectives in Biology and Medicine 47 (3): 357–371.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. LaFollette, Hugh, and Ingmar Persson. 2013. The blackwell guide to ethical theory. 2nd ed. West Sussex: Wiley-Blackwell.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Lella, Joseph W., and Dorothy Pawluch. 1988. Medical students and the cadaver in social and cultural context. In Biomedicine examined, ed. M. Lock and D.R. Gordon, 125–153. Dordrecht: Kluwer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Lenoir, Timothy. 1999. Shaping biomedicine as an information science. In Proceedings of the 1998 conference on the history and heritage of science information systems, ed. M.E. Bowden, T.B. Hahn, and R.V. Williams, 27–45. Medford: Information Today.Google Scholar
  32. Lewis, Thomas. 1977. Biomedical science and human health: The long-range prospect. Daedalus 106 (3): 163–171.Google Scholar
  33. Lock, Margaret. 1988. Introduction. In Biomedicine examined, ed. M. Lock and D.R. Gordon, 3–10. Dordrecht: Kluwer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. ———. 2007. The future is now: Locating biomarkers for dementia. In Biomedicine as culture. Instrumental practices, technoscientific knowledge, and new modes of life, ed. R.V. Burri and J. Dumit, 61–85. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  35. Löwy, Ilana. 2011. Historiography of biomedicine: “Bio,” “medicine,” and in between. Isis 102 (1): 116–122.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Lupton, Deborah. 2012. Medicine as culture: Illness, disease and the body. London: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  37. Macer, Darryl R.J. 2008. Moral games for teaching bioethics. Haifa: UNESCO Chair in Bioethics.Google Scholar
  38. Meyer, Angela, Amelie Cserer, and Markus Schmidt. 2013. Frankenstein 2.0.: Identifying and characterising synthetic biology engineers in science fiction films. Life Sciences, Society and Policy 9 (1): 1–17.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Murphy, John, and José Zagal. 2011. Video games and the ethics of care., 3, 69–81. International Journal of Gaming and Computer-Mediated Simulations 3 (3): 69–81.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Nussbaum, Martha. 1999. Sex and social justice. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  41. ———. 2011. Creating capabilities – the human development approach. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Oudshoorn, Nelly, and André Somers. 2007. Constructing the digital patient: Patient organizations and the development of health websites. In Biomedicine as culture. Instrumental practices, technoscientific knowledge, and new modes of life, ed. R.V. Burri and J. Dumit, 205–222. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  43. Primack, Brian A., Madeline A. Dalton, Mary V. Carroll, Aaron A. Agarwal, and Michael J. Fine. 2008. Content analysis of tobacco, alcohol, and other drugs in popular music. Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine 162 (2): 169–175.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Quirke, Vivian, and Jean-Paul Gaudillière. 2008. The era of biomedicine: Science, medicine, and public health in Britain and France after the Second World War. Medical History 52: 441–452.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Scheffler, Robin W., and Bruno J. Strasser. 2015. Biomedical sciences and technology: History and sociology of. In International encyclopedia of the social & behavioral sciences, ed. J.D. Wright, 2nd ed., 663–669. Amsterdam: Elsevier.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Schrier, Karen, and David Gibson, eds. 2010. Ethics and game design: Teaching values through play. Hershey: Information Science Reference.Google Scholar
  47. Schulzke, Marcus. 2013. The bioethics of digital utopias. International Journal of Technoethics 4 (2): 46–57.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Sen, Amartya. 1993. Capability and well-being. In The quality of life, ed. A. Sen and M. Nussbaum, 30–53. Oxford: Clarendon Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Sicart, Miguel. 2009. Ethics of computer games. Cambridge, MA: MIT press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Stapleton, Darwin H. 2004. Creating a tradition of biomedical research: Contributions to the history of the Rockefeller University. New York: The Rockefeller University Press.Google Scholar
  51. Statt, Nick. 2016. Battlefield 1 is an anti-war message trapped in a best-selling shooter, The Verge 06.11.2016.
  52. Strasser, Bruno J. 2014. Biomedicine: Meanings, assumptions, and possible futures. Report to the Swiss Science and Innovation Council (SSIC) 1/2014. Bern: Swiss Science and Innovation Council.Google Scholar
  53. Turney, Jon. 1995. Life in the laboratory: Public responses to experimental biology. Public Understanding of Science 4 (2): 153–176.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Warner, John Harley. 2013. The humanizing power of medical history: Responses to biomedicine in the 20th-century United States. Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences 77: 322–329.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Welch, William H. 1906. The unity of the medical sciences. Science 24 (615): 454–461.CrossRefGoogle Scholar


  1. Bethesda Game Studios. 2008. Fallout 3. Rockville: Bethesda Softworks.Google Scholar
  2. ———. 2015. Fallout 4. Rockville: Bethesda Softworks.Google Scholar
  3. Eidos. 2016 Deus Ex. Mankind Divided. Montreal.Google Scholar
  4. Positech Games. 2015 Big Pharma. UK.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of the History, Philosophy and Ethics of MedicineHeinrich-Heine University DüsseldorfDüsseldorfGermany
  2. 2.berg_kulturbüroRamsau b. BerchtesgadenGermany

Personalised recommendations