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Open Access Highly Accessed Open Badges Research article

Global bioethics – myth or reality?

Søren Holm12* and Bryn Williams-Jones3

Author Affiliations

1 Cardiff Institute of Society, Health and Ethics, Schools of Law and Social Sciences, 53 Park Place, Cardiff University, Cardiff, Wales, CF10 3AT, United Kingdom

2 Section for Medical Ethics, University of Oslo, PO Box 1130 Blindern, N-0318 Oslo, Norway

3 Groupe de recherche en bioéthique & Département de médicine sociale et préventive, Université de Montréal, C.P. 6128, succ. centre-ville, Montréal (Québec) H3C 3J7, Canada

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BMC Medical Ethics 2006, 7:10  doi:10.1186/1472-6939-7-10

Published: 11 September 2006



There has been debate on whether a global or unified field of bioethics exists. If bioethics is a unified global field, or at the very least a closely shared way of thinking, then we should expect bioethicists to behave the same way in their academic activities anywhere in the world. This paper investigates whether there is a 'global bioethics' in the sense of a unified academic community.


To address this question, we study the web-linking patterns of bioethics institutions, the citation patterns of bioethics papers and the buying patterns of bioethics books.


All three analyses indicate that there are geographical and institutional differences in the academic behavior of bioethicists and bioethics institutions.


These exploratory studies support the position that there is no unified global field of bioethics. This is a problem if the only reason is parochialism. But these regional differences are probably of less concern if one notices that bioethics comes in many not always mutually understandable dialects.