The Bioethics Centre was conceived by Professor D Gareth Jones and established in 1988. Professor Jones served initially as Director and Dr Grant Gillett was appointed Senior Lecturer in Medical Ethics within the Centre.
In 1990 Dr Alastair V Campbell was appointed to a Personal Chair in Biomedical Ethics and to the post of Director of the Centre.
Initially, the Centre was established as a research centre within the Division of Health Sciences. Over its first 8 years, it developed into a major resource for teaching, research, consultancy, and public education in bioethics.
In order to reflect this expansion of the Centre's activities, its name was changed from 'Bioethics Research Centre to 'Bioethics Centre'. This signified a major move into the teaching arena.
Professor Campbell left in 1996 to establish a similar centre in Bristol in the UK. Professor Jones served as Acting Director, until Professor Donald Evans assumed the directorship in 1997.
Professor Evans held the position until 2009, at which point he resigned from the director's role, while remaining in the Centre as a Professor. He retired in 2012.
During 2009, Professor Lynda Holloway was Acting Director.
Professor Gareth Jones took over the directorship in early 2010, an appointment that continued until the end of 2012.
Until 2011 the Centre was an integral part of the Department of Medical and Surgical Sciences within the Dunedin School of Medicine. It was located within a suite of rooms in the academic wing on the eighth floor of the Dunedin Public Hospital.
From 2011 it became a stand-alone unit and cost centre within the Division of Health Sciences.
In essence the Centre now functions as a department; the Director is Head of Department and reports to the Pro-Vice-Chancellor of Health Sciences.
Since February 2012, the Centre has been located in its own premises at 71 Frederick Street, Dunedin. Situated alongside the Hunter Centre and in close proximity to the Dunedin Public Hospital, Physiotherapy School, and Dental School, along with departments of the Otago School of Medical Sciences, it has close relationships with all Dunedin-based units in Health Sciences, and is also readily accessible to the main campus of the University.
In February 2013 Professor John McMillan, formerly Associate Professor in Flinders Medical School in Adelaide, joined the Centre as Director and Professor.
Since its origin in 1988, the growth of the Centre has been marked, both in structural and intellectual terms. This is fitting for a research-based unit that seeks to service many aspects of applied ethics, with a clear emphasis on the health sciences. It is fitting too, that it is located within the Division of Health Sciences, since so many of the issues with which it deals are intensely practical.
However, it is only able to do this by virtue of its interdisciplinary character.