A professor and chair of the Department of Medical History and Ethics
, Jonsen spent four years working on the book. Written for a general audience, the book traces bioethics from the early 1960s and the debate over Belding H. Scribner's method for long-term kidney dialysis to the latest debates surrounding genetics and organ transplantation.
Jonsen is also the principal editor of a major document collection, Source Book in Bioethics (Georgetown University Press, Washington, 1998, 500 pp). The source book is a historical compendium of the principal legal and policy documents relevant to bioethics, from court proceedings at the Nuremberg trials of Nazi physicians to recent NIH policy on the uses of fetuses in research.
Jonsen, a member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences, has authored or co-authored five other major works and has written chapters for more than 40 books on medicine and health care.