Principlism, especially in the context of bioethics in the United States, has often been critiqued for raising the principle of autonomy to the highest place, such that it trumps all other principles or values. How would you rank the importance of each of the four principles? How do you believe they would be ordered in the context of the Christian biblical narrative? Refer to the topic overview and other topic study materials in your response. MATERIAL ATTACHED


Principlism is a widely used approach in bioethics that emphasizes four key principles: autonomy, beneficence, nonmaleficence, and justice. These principles serve as guiding tools for ethical decision-making in healthcare. However, there has been criticism that autonomy is often prioritized above all other principles. This paper will rank the importance of each principle and explore how they may be ordered in the context of the Christian biblical narrative.

Ranking the Importance of Principlism

Autonomy, the principle that respects an individual’s right to self-determination and decision-making, is often viewed as the most central principle in bioethics. This emphasis on autonomy can be attributed to the promotion of patient-centered care and the increasing importance society places on individual rights and freedoms. Autonomy recognizes that patients have the right to make decisions regarding their own healthcare, even if those decisions go against what healthcare professionals may recommend.

Beneficence and nonmaleficence are also crucial principles in bioethics, although they often require a balancing act. Beneficence emphasizes the duty to promote the well-being and best interests of patients, while nonmaleficence encompasses the obligation to do no harm. These principles are closely interrelated as healthcare providers strive to maximize benefits while minimizing harm. Although autonomy may often take precedence, beneficence and nonmaleficence remain vital considerations in ethical decision-making.

Justice, the fourth principle in principlism, refers to fair distribution of healthcare resources and equal treatment for all individuals. This principle recognizes the importance of fairness and equity in healthcare delivery. However, it is often seen as less prioritized than autonomy, beneficence, and nonmaleficence. This may be because the concept of justice is complex and requires careful consideration of societal factors such as resource allocation and healthcare disparities.

Ordering the Principles in the Christian Biblical Narrative

In the context of the Christian biblical narrative, the principles of autonomy, beneficence, nonmaleficence, and justice can be viewed from a different lens. Christianity places a strong emphasis on the value of human life, the dignity of each individual, and the pursuit of righteousness. These core beliefs can shape the ordering of the principles in the Christian biblical narrative.

First and foremost, the principle of human dignity and the inherent value of life align with the Christian belief in the sanctity of life. This places a high priority on nonmaleficence and the duty to prevent harm to oneself and others. Christian teachings emphasize the importance of avoiding actions that cause harm, both physically and spiritually. Therefore, nonmaleficence could be ranked as the primary ethical principle in the Christian biblical narrative.

The principle of beneficence, which focuses on promoting the well-being of others, also holds a significant place within Christianity. The teachings of Jesus Christ emphasize the love for one’s neighbor, selflessness, and acts of kindness. A Christian biblical narrative may prioritize beneficence as the second most important principle, as it aligns with the central message of compassion and self-sacrifice.

Autonomy, although still a significant consideration, may be considered as third in the ranking within the Christian biblical narrative. Christianity encourages humility and submission to divine guidance. This belief may temper the emphasis on individual autonomy when it conflicts with duties and responsibilities towards God and one’s neighbor. While autonomy is valued, it may be seen more as a means to exercise responsible decision-making within the bounds of Christian teachings.

Lastly, justice, though essential in upholding societal fairness and equality, may be ranked fourth in the Christian biblical narrative. Christianity acknowledges that the world is imperfect and that justice can sometimes be elusive. However, the pursuit of justice remains important, particularly in advocating for the marginalized and oppressed. Christian teachings emphasize the call to work towards justice, but in light of the higher priority given to nonmaleficence, beneficence, and humble submission to God’s will.


Principlism provides a useful framework for ethical decision-making in healthcare, with autonomy often taking center stage. However, the ranking of the four principles can vary depending on the ethical framework and perspective. In the Christian biblical narrative, nonmaleficence, beneficence, humility, and justice can be seen as significant principles, reflecting the core values of protecting life, showing kindness, embracing responsibility, and striving for fairness.