Bioethics on the Internet

Issue: BCMJ, vol. 43, No. 4, May 2001, Page 198 College Library

The world of bioethics is at the intersection of regulation, societal values, and clinical practice. The Internet, with its ability to link individuals of varying technical aptitudes across disciplines and between organizations, is proving a useful tool for ethicists and those concerned with ethical issues in medicine. A review of sites for bioethics reveals continuing rapid change on the Internet. Those searching for bioethics information will have to use a new interface in 6 months. Many useful full-text documents are available, but since posting to the Internet is a recent phenomenon, the print versions of many documents must also be sought out.

Links to organizations

The Canadian Medical Association's Canadian Bioethics Report maintains an excellent, current listing, including university research centres, associations, patient groups, government agencies, and other organizations in the bioethics field.

Please note: As of 30 September 2001 the Canadian Medical Association's URL will change from to You should be able to find the resources mentioned through various navigation options on the CMA home page. Because of a site redesign, simply substituting "cma" in the specific URLs given in the article may not be effective.

Important sites

Full-text documents

Access to documents is enhanced if they are posted on the Internet, ideal for reaching the dispersed bioethics community. Significant documents include:

However, some publications, such as those of the Special Advisory Committee on Ethical Issues in Health Care (BC Ministry of Health), are not available except in print. The BMJ continues to offer its complete content at The report in BMJ on the ethical dilemmas faced by University of Toronto medical students was available before newspapers reported this study.

The availability of bioethics journals reveals the state of electronic publishing via the Internet. The Journal of Medical Ethics is available complete, but only for a trial period ending 31 May 2001. The Milbank Quarterly provides links to abstracts but only the full text of featured articles. The Hastings Center Report is not available from the Hastings Center site. The Center is making the Report available to libraries in a package via organizations converting print into electronic format, with access available via the library--see, for example, the link for UBC faculty and students.

Finding more information

Bioethicsline (see Fact Sheet or online information), produced by the National Reference Center for Bioethics Literature at the Kennedy Institute for Bioethics at Georgetown University, has been the standard source. Many citations are drawn from MEDLINE and augmented by indexers at the Kennedy Institute with specialized terms. These terms are drawn from a thesaurus available from the Institute's site. For a few years, Bioethicsline has been searchable via the Internet on Grateful Med. However, the US National Library of Medicine (NLM) is making the logical step to distributed databases linked by one search interface. Rather than building a database with citations from MEDLINE combined with additional items, NLM has set up the Gateway to integrate search results from MEDLINE, LocatorPlus (the NLM book and audiovisuals catalogue), and other databases - for more, see the Bioethics page at NLM. Bioethicsline to the end of 2000 will continue to be searchable via the Internet on Grateful Med for the next few months. To do a complete search, however, an NLM Gateway search is already necessary if 2001 items are required.

A wider search using a general search engine--Google is becoming the most popular--will reveal the variety of viewpoints, some balanced and well informed, some with clear bias, on topics controversial and mundane. As well as organizations, Canadian Bioethics Report cited above includes information on recent court decisions and publications and upcoming meetings. Good directories of bioethics sites include and Perhaps the best international guide is from the producers of Bioethicsline--see the links from the National Reference Center for Bioethics Literature. A number of general directories include bioethics or ethics sections--see "Directory Sites" from the College Library's site. As well, additional links to bioethics sites may be found on the Library's site under "Bioethics" in the "Hot Links" section or under Bioethics 2001 section from "Learning Links".

Jim Henderson, Director
Medical Library Service
College of Physicians & Surgeons of BC

Jim Henderson. Bioethics on the Internet. BCMJ, Vol. 43, No. 4, May, 2001, Page(s) 198 - College Library.

Above is the information needed to cite this article in your paper or presentation. The International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) recommends the following citation style, which is the now nearly universally accepted citation style for scientific papers:
Halpern SD, Ubel PA, Caplan AL, Marion DW, Palmer AM, Schiding JK, et al. Solid-organ transplantation in HIV-infected patients. N Engl J Med. 2002;347:284-7.

About the ICMJE and citation styles

The ICMJE is small group of editors of general medical journals who first met informally in Vancouver, British Columbia, in 1978 to establish guidelines for the format of manuscripts submitted to their journals. The group became known as the Vancouver Group. Its requirements for manuscripts, including formats for bibliographic references developed by the U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM), were first published in 1979. The Vancouver Group expanded and evolved into the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE), which meets annually. The ICMJE created the Recommendations for the Conduct, Reporting, Editing, and Publication of Scholarly Work in Medical Journals to help authors and editors create and distribute accurate, clear, easily accessible reports of biomedical studies.

An alternate version of ICMJE style is to additionally list the month an issue number, but since most journals use continuous pagination, the shorter form provides sufficient information to locate the reference. The NLM now lists all authors.

BCMJ standard citation style is a slight modification of the ICMJE/NLM style, as follows:

  • Only the first three authors are listed, followed by "et al."
  • There is no period after the journal name.
  • Page numbers are not abbreviated.

For more information on the ICMJE Recommendations for the Conduct, Reporting, Editing, and Publication of Scholarly Work in Medical Journals, visit

BCMJ Guidelines for Authors

Leave a Reply