Bioethics Archives

This page lists the complete archival collections held by the Bioethics Research Library of the Kennedy Institute of EthicsFinding aids for some collections are available online.

Some collections include fully digitized reports or documents available for free through DigitalGeorgetown. Selected physical materials from archival collections are available by request for researchers to examine in the Library: schedule an appointment to view archival materials.

Documents from the archives may also be requested for digitization on demand. A fee may be assessed to the researcher for time spent identifying, retrieving, and scanning the document. Please contact to learn more about this option.

Note: Some collections are indicated below as “Unprocessed.” These are not yet available for use. Please contact the Bioethics Research Library at if you have questions or need further information. 
In setting its processing priorities, the Bioethics Research Library takes researcher interest into account and welcomes suggestions about which unprocessed collections should be prioritized for processing. Expressions of interest should be sent to

The National Commission for the Protection of Human Subjects of Biomedical and Behavioral Research, 1974-1978

In the early history of bioethics, the Executive Branch’s Department of Health, Education and Welfare established the National Commission for the Protection of Human Subjects of Biomedical and Behavioral Research. The archive encompasses 43 meetings from 1974-1978 and includes briefing books, subject files, and transcripts from these meetings.

1974 – 1978 * 12.4 cubic feet * Finding Aid Digital Collection * Reports

Ethics Advisory Board (EAB), 1978-1979

This group began in 1978 under the auspices of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare. Its pronouncement on human embryo research in 1979, followed by the EAB dissolution, began a 15-year moratorium on such research.

1978 – 1979 * 1 cubic foot * Finding AidReport

President’s Commission for the Study of Ethical Problems in Medicine and in Biomedical and Behavioral Research, 1978-1983

This congressionally mandated group was formed in 1978, succeeding the National Commission for the Protection of Human Subjects of Biomedical and Behavioral Research. It worked independently from January 1980 to March 1983. The archive encompasses 28 meetings held between 1980 and 1983 and includes briefing books, subject files, and transcripts from these meetings.

1978 – 1983 * 26.4 cubic feet * Finding Aid * Digital Collection * Reports

Human Fetal Tissue Transplantation Research Panel, 1988

The National Institutes of Health created this advisory panel to deliberate over federal support of therapeutic transplantation research using human tissue obtained from aborted fetuses. The group existed from the spring to the fall of 1988. Its report recommended continuing the funding for such research if guidelines were established to keep abortion separate from the research. Despite the recommendation, the moratorium on such research was extended from a temporary one to an indefinite one.

1998 * 0.42 linear feet * Report

Advisory Committee on Human Radiation Experiments, 1994-1995

Created in January 1994 and dissolved in October 1995, the 14-member committee was charged with investigating and reporting on the use of human beings as subjects of federally funded research using ionizing radiation. To maximize public access as required under the Federal Advisory Committee Act, the committee created for the first time a gopher site on the World Wide Web, which is now under the National Security Agency Archives.

1994 – 1995 * ca. 19.2 cubic feet * Finding Aid Final Report * Archived Website

National Bioethics Advisory Commission (NBAC), 1996-2001

The National Bioethics Advisory Commission was established by Executive Order 12975. The purpose of the Commission was to provide advice and make recommendations to the National Science and Technology Council and other appropriate government agencies. The archive contains materials for every year of the commission’s existence and maintains the official website of the commission as it appeared on the last day of the commission’s charter, October 3, 2001.

1996 – 2001 * ca. 26.00 linear feet * Archived Website * Reports

The President’s Council on Bioethics (PCBE), 2001 -2009

The President’s Council on Bioethics was established by Executive Order 13237 and was charged with advising the President on bioethical issues that may emerge as a consequence of advances in biomedical science and technology. The archive holds materials and reports from every year of the council and maintains the official website as it appeared on the last day of the council’s charter, September 30, 2009.

2001 – 2009 * ca. 10.00 linear feet *Archived Website * Reports

Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues, 2010-2017

The Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues (the Bioethics Commission) was an advisory panel of the nation’s leaders in medicine, science, ethics, religion, law, and engineering. The Bioethics Commission advised President Barack Obama on bioethical issues arising from advances in biomedicine and related areas of science and technology. The Bioethics Commission sought to identify and promote policies and practices that ensure scientific research, health care delivery, and technological innovation are conducted in a socially and ethically responsible manner. Records include meeting materials (agendas and briefing books), project reports and background research files, educational materials, and the Commission’s website. 6.15 cubic feet * Finding Aid * Archived Website * Reports

Biomedical Ethics Advisory Committee (BEAC), 1988-1989

The committee was formed in 1987 to counsel the congressional members of the national Biomedical Ethics Board on ethical issues that arise in the delivery of healthcare and biomedical research. The group functioned only briefly from late 1988 to early 1989. The BEAC did not release any reports. 0.5 cubic feet. Finding Aid

Human Embryo Research Panel, 1994

The Human Embryo Research Panel was established to provide the Director of the National Institutes of Health (Harold Varmus) with recommendations regarding human embryo research and guidelines for federal funding of such research. They held a series of meetings starting in February 1994 and issued a report in September 1994. 0.5 cubic feet. Finding Aid.

National Heart Transplantation Study, 1981-1984

The National Heart Transplantation Study was established in the early 1980s. According to Patricia Roberts Harris, then Secretary of the U.S. Department of Human and Health Services, the study would, “examine, in general, all aspects of heart transplants, including the scientific, social, economic, and ethical issues, and, in particular, the impact of a possible Medicare decision to pay for heart transplants on the Medicare program, Medicare beneficiaries, and providers of health care.” The study was led by Dr. Roger W. Evans. 1.4 cubic feet. Finding Aid

New Jersey Commission on Legal and Ethical Problems in the Delivery of Health Care, 1986-1992

The collection contains transcripts of the meetings held by the State of New Jersey Commission on Legal and Ethical Problems in the Delivery of Health Care, dating from 1986 to 1992. Many of these meetings were held as public hearings as part of different ad hoc working groups looking at specific issues such as living wills and new reproductive technologies. 0.8 cubic feet. Finding Aid

The Robert Cook-Deegan Human Genome Archive, 1986-1994

The Robert Cook-Deegan Human Genome Archive is founded on the bibliography of The Gene Wars: Science, Politics, and the Human Genome. The archive encompasses both physical and digital materials related to The Human Genome Project (HGP) and includes correspondence, government reports, background information, and oral histories from prominent participants in the project.

1986 – 1994 * ca. 20.85 linear feet * GeneWars Digital Book * Digital Collection

Bioethics Audiovisual Archival Collection, (1931-Present)

The Bioethics Research Library’s collection of 739 audiovisual materials, which are mostly on VHS and DVD, covers a range of topics in the field of bioethics. This collection holds a diverse set of resources including major Hollywood motion pictures, independent films, news features, and documentaries. Patrons can use this collection to create common experiences for viewers, bring diverse and wide-ranging life stories and ethical questions into the classroom, and harness additional expertise on topics and issues in bioethics.

1931 – Present * 26.25 linear feet * Finding Aid

Bioethics Gray Literature Archival Collection, 1975-2006


Print archive for the BIOETHICSLINE database developed and maintained by the Kennedy Institute of Ethics for the National Library of Medicine from 1975 to 2000 and for the PubMed indexing project generated by National Reference Center for Bioethics Literature bibliographers from 2000 – 2006. This archive contains gray literature, journal articles, law reviews, court decisions, and news articles. Many of the gray literature documents have not been digitized and thus are not available via the Web. Examples of such categories include secondary school teaching materials, sociological and theological works, theses and dissertations, and literature from societies and institutions.

1975 – 2006 * 66.00 linear feet

Bioethics Newsletters Archival Collection, 1971-Present

In addition to regular journal subscriptions, the Bioethics Research Library since its inception has actively sought to collect newsletters, bulletins, and other publications produced by organizations covering bioethical issues. This archive compromises more than 40 years of these publications, many of which have never been digitized.

1971 – Present * 30.00 linear feet * Finding Aid * Collection Page

Acadia Institute Bioethics Interview Collection, 1997-2000

This collection contains transcripts of interviews by Renée C. Fox and Judith P. Swazey based on a series of interviews Fox and Swazey conducted with a number of well-known bioethicists. The interviews served as the backbone of their book, Observing Bioethics. These transcripts are now available digitally for anyone interested in the history of bioethics.

1997 – 2000 * 1.6 cubmit feet * Finding AidDigital Collection

Bioethics Syllabus Exchange Repository Digital Collection, 1985-Present

Since 1985, the Syllabus Exchange Repository at the Bioethics Research Library has functioned as a clearinghouse for bioethics syllabi to promote the study of bioethics as a discipline. The collection consists of over 600 syllabi in three languages from 12 countries. While the standard course syllabus documents a semester-length class, seminars and continuing education courses are included as well. The collection contains courses from high school through graduate education.

1985 – Present * Digital Collection

Bioethical Issues: Scope Notes Archive, 1982-2003

To promote research in the interdisciplinary field of bioethics, the Bioethics Research Library produced a series of 47 Scope Notes – annotated bibliographies with introductory essays – to provide a range of opinions on bioethical issues. They offered immediate reference to facts, opinion, and legal precedents (if applicable) for scholars, journalists, medical and legal practitioners, students, and other interested persons. Scope Notes 17, 22, 24, and 28 were updated in July 2011 as part of the library’s National Information Resource on Ethics and Human Genetics preservation project.

1985 – 2003 * 0.42 Linear feet * Digital Collection


Last updated on February 26th, 2021.