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Table 1 The Four Principles of Biomedical Ethics. A brief formulation of the four bioethical principles of respect for autonomy, beneficence, nonmaleficence and justice of Beauchamp & Childress [16].

From: Empirical investigation of the ethical reasoning of physicians and molecular biologists – the importance of the four principles of biomedical ethics

The Principle of Respect for Autonomy
• As a negative obligation: Autonomous actions should not be subjected to controlling constraints by others
• As a positive obligation: This principle requires respectful treatment in disclosing information, probing for and ensuring understanding and voluntariness, and fostering autonomous decision-making [16].
The Principle of Beneficence
• One ought to prevent and remove evil or harm
• One ought to do and promote good
• One ought to weigh and balance the possible goods against the possible harms of an action [16, 17].
The Principle of Nonmaleficence
One ought not to inflict evil or harm. Or more specifically: One ought not to hurt other people mentally or physically [16].
The Principle of Justice
Beauchamp hildress examine several philosophical theories of justice, including egalitarian theories which emphasise "equal access to the goods in life that every rational person values (often invoking material criteria of need and equality)" [16]. Beauchamp & Childress propose that "society recognize an enforceable right to a decent minimum of health care within a framework for allocation that incorporates both utilitarian and egalitarian standards" [16]. (Utilitarian theories emphasise "a mixture of criteria for the purpose of maximizing public utility") [16].