Journal of Bioethical Inquiry

, Volume 8, Issue 1, pp 71-85

First online:

Art and Bioethics: Shifts in Understanding Across Genres

  • Paul Ulhas MacneillAffiliated withCentre for Biomedical Ethics, Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, National University of Singapore Email author 
  • , Bronaċ FerranAffiliated withInnovation Design Engineering Department, Royal College of Art

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This paper describes and discusses overlapping interests and concerns of art and bioethics and suggests that bioethics would benefit from opening to contributions from the arts. There is a description of recent events in bioethics that have included art, and trends in art that relate to bioethics. The paper outlines art exhibits and performances within two major international bioethics congress programs alongside a discussion of the work of leading hybrid and bio artists who experiment with material (including their own bodies) at the ambiguous intersections between art, bio art and bioethics. Their work seeks to engage audiences in challenging ethical precepts and assumptions about life and existence. We consider the response of art and social theorists and compare these with the responses of bioethicists to comparable cases in bioethics. We note divergent views within the arts and within bioethics in relation to some pivotal questions including questions about what limits, if any, can apply in particular cases and on what basis. This approach allows for a transfer of information and perspectives, challenges assumptions in both art and bioethics and opens up a space for future exchange and dialogue along the shifting borders between these genres.


Humanities [K01] Art [K01.093] Medicine in Art [K01.093.530] Ethics [K01.316] Bioethics [K01.316.070] Hybrid art Bioart