The Origins, Goals, and Core
Commitments of The Belmont Report
and Principles of Biomedical Ethics
TOM L. BEAUCHAMP
During the summer and the latter half of 1975, Jim Childress and I lectured on and began to write the chapters of what would later be titled Principles of Biomedical Ethics.1 We worked steadily on this project throughout 1976. On December 22 of that year, I agreed to join the staff of the National Commission for the Protection of Human Subjects of Biomedical and Behavioral Research. My first and only major assignment was to write “The Belmont Paper,” as it was then called— only later would it be titled The Belmont Report.2
There has been some confusion as to the historical origins of and connection between Belmont and Principles. Virtually all published commentary on this history has assumed that Belmont preceded and provided the abstract framework for Principles3 Such speculation about origins fails to appreciate that both works were written simultaneously, the one inevitably influencing the other. I will explain how this occurred. I will also defend the importance of general frameworks of moral principles of the sort found in these works against various criticisms that have appeared over the years.
OF THE BELMONT REPORT
The idea for the Belmont Paper originated in an examination of principles that emerged during a break-out session at a retreat held February 13-16, 1976, at the Smithsonian Institution's Belmont Conference Center.4 This retreat predates my work on The Belmont Report, and I leave it to others to detail what transpired at Belmont.