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Ruth Macklin, PhD, Department of Epidemiology & Population Health, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, NY 10461, USA. Email:


Fast forward 50 years into the future. A look back at what occurred in the field of bioethics since 2010 reveals that a conference in 2050 commemorated the death of bioethics. In a steady progression over the years, the field became increasingly fragmented and bureaucratized. Disagreement and dissension were rife, and this once flourishing, multidisciplinary field began to splinter in multiple ways. Prominent journals folded, one by one, and were replaced with specialized publications dealing with genethics, reproethics, nanoethics, and necroethics. Mainstream bioethics organizations also collapsed, giving way to new associations along disciplinary and sub-disciplinary lines. Physicians established their own journals, and specialty groups broke away from more general associations of medical ethics. Lawyers also split into three separate factions, and philosophers rejected all but the most rigorous, analytic articles into their newly established journal. Matters finally came to a head with global warming, the world-wide spread of malaria and dengue, and the cost of medical treatments out of reach for almost everyone. The result was the need to develop plans for strict rationing of medical care. At the same time, recognition emerged of the importance of the right to health and the need for global justice in health. By 2060, a spark of hope was ignited, opening the door to the resuscitation of bioethics and involvement of the global community.