Design bioethics: a theoretical framework and argument for innovation in bioethics research

Gabriela Pavarini*, Robyn McMillan, Abigail Robinson, Ilina Singh

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)
56 Downloads (Pure)


Empirical research in bioethics has developed rapidly over the past decade, but has largely eschewed the use of technology-driven methodologies. We propose "design bioethics" as an area of conjoined theoretical and methodological innovation in the field, working across bioethics, health sciences and human-centred technological design. We demonstrate the potential of digital tools, particularly purpose-built digital games, to align with theoretical frameworks in bioethics for empirical research, integrating context, narrative and embodiment in moral decision-making. Purpose-built digital tools can engender situated engagement with bioethical questions; can achieve such engagement at scale; and can access groups traditionally under-represented in bioethics research and theory. If developed and used with appropriate rigor, tools motivated by "design bioethics" could offer unique insights into new and familiar normative and empirical issues in the field.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)37-50
Number of pages14
JournalAmerican Journal of Bioethics
Issue number6
Early online date27 Jan 2021
Publication statusPublished - 3 Jun 2021


  • Design bioethics
  • Empirical bioethics
  • Epistemology
  • Games
  • Videogames
  • Young people


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