Tom L. Beauchamp
and James F. Childress were presented with the Hastings Center’s Henry Knowles
Beecher Award at a ceremony in Washington, DC on May 3, 2011. The award
recognizes individuals who have made a lifetime contribution to ethics and the
life sciences and whose careers have been devoted to excellence in scholarship,
research, and ethical inquiry. In presenting the award, Hastings Center
President Thomas H. Murray recognized the recipients, both Fellows of The Hastings Center, for their longstanding
contributions to the field of bioethics, both individually and as a team.
Beauchamp and Childress are authors of the classic bioethics text Principles of Biomedical Ethics, first published in 1979 and now in its 6th
edition. The book roots moral reasoning in healthcare around four principles:
autonomy, justice, beneficence, and non-maleficence.
Beauchamp, PhD, is Professor of Philosophy and Senior Research Scholar at the
Kennedy Institute of Ethics at Georgetown University. James F. Childress, PhD, is University Professor and the
John Allen Hollingsworth Professor of Ethics at the University of Virginia,
where he directs the Institute for Practical Ethics and Public Life.
Video from the event is presented in five chapters: Dan Callahan's introduction · Thomas Murray's introduction · Tom Beauchamp's talk · James Childress's talk · Thomas Murray's closing remarks.
In their remarks
at the awards ceremony, Beauchamp and Childress turned to different subjects.
Dr. Beauchamp’s talk, “The Distinction between Research and Practice,” examined
the implications of blurring the distinction between clinical research, which
traditionally is considered risky and heavily regulated in order to protect
human subjects, and medical practice, which is considered accepted and
requiring less regulation. He predicts a continuum of non-therapeutic research
and accepted therapies, and presented a case for a new paradigm that will more
closely unite the two dimensions in a mutually beneficial feedback loop, but
also has implications for changes to the IRB system.
talk, “Respecting Conscience, Protecting Patients: Unresolved Tensions in
American Health Care,” examined whether the state, institution, and health
professions should exempt conscientiously objecting health care providers from
practices, products, and procedures that patients expect. Looking at universal
and selective refusals, and drawing analogies from religious and military
objections, his talk examined the tensions that arise between respecting
conscientious refusals and protecting patients’ interests. Concluding that
protecting both patients and providers is the aim, Dr. Childress argued for a
middle ground where conscientious refusal is accepted, but conscientious
obstruction—such as refusal to refer patients to other services or providers—is
Chair of The Hastings Center’s Board of Directors, welcomed the audience to the
ceremony. Daniel Callahan, co-founder of the Center and President Emeritus,
described the Beecher Award, which is named for the late
Henry Knowles Beecher, MD. An anesthesiologist who, in the 1960’s, shed light
on ethically questionable practices in human subjects research, Dr. Beecher
helped give birth to the field of bioethics and became one of its pioneers.