The field of bioethics largely emerged in the wake of the U.S. Public Health Service Syphilis Study at Tuskegee and other infamous experiments on human subjects.  The Belmont Report, largely created in response to the Syphilis Study, remains very influential in terms of how to approach issues in bioethics.  The ethical principles discussed in the Report, autonomy, beneficence, and justice, provide a framework for confronting challenges in the biomedical realm.

While the scope of the field is the subject of some disagreement, bioethics is situated where medicine, biology, and biotechnology intersect with morality, policy, and politics.  Some of the issues at this intersection relate to the definition and boundaries of life.  These include abortion, assisted reproduction, prenatal testing, gene therapy, euthanasia, physician-assisted suicide, and advance directives.  Issues relating to technological change in medicine and biology, such as the ethics of clinical research, genomics, stem cell research, brain-computer interfaces, and imaging technologies, are also of interest in this realm. Other issues focus on the delivery of health care and provisioning of scarce medical resources. They include the ethics of clinical practice, including patient privacy and informed consent, access to care, and rationing of care.