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William & Mary Environmental Law and Policy Review


environmental law, environmental ethics, health law, bioethics, ethics


Bioethics evolved from theoretical philosophy into an applied field. Decision makers in health and medical sciences involve bioethicists in decisions and policy making. Although people study environmental ethics, mainly in philosophy programs, environmental ethicists are not involved in decision making. I explore the development of bioethics and environmental ethics, primarily considering the role of law in their development. I ask whether laws and legal opinions encouraging the use of bioethicists in decision making promoted the development of applied bioethics, and correspondingly, whether the absence of laws and opinions promoting environmental ethicists retarded the development of applied environmental ethics. Finally, I suggest that environmental ethicists propose a statement of ethical principles for environmental decision making, similar that proposed by bioethicists in the Belmont Report, in the hopes that those principles begin to be considered in law making, leading law to encourage the use of environmental ethicists in environmental decisions.