Faden, a founder of the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics, was born in Philadelphia. She earned her B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania in 1970 and a master’s degree in humanities from the University of Chicago in 1971. She continued her studies at the University of California at Berkeley, earning an MPH in 1973 and a Ph.D. in 1976. While pursuing her doctoral degree, she served as director of a patient education research program in San Francisco.
In 1976, Faden was appointed assistant professor of public health administration and population dynamics at the Johns Hopkins University School of Hygiene and Public Health. In 1978, she was named a senior research scholar at Georgetown University’s Kennedy Institute of Ethics. In 1986, she was named professor of health policy and management at the Johns Hopkins University School of Hygiene and Public Health, and in 1988, Faden became director of the program in law, ethics, and health within the school’s department of health policy and management.
In 1995, Faden founded the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics and served as its first director. In the twenty years in which she led the Institute, Faden transformed what was an informal interest group of Johns Hopkins faculty into one of the leading and largest bioethics programs in the world. Under her direction, the Berman Institute became a university-wide entity. She helped create education and training opportunities in bioethics for students at every level, and mentored more than fifty postdoctoral fellows who moved on to leadership positions in the field. Faden secured six endowed professorships and an endowed directorship for the program. She was the Andreas C. Dracopoulos director from 2014 to 2016. Faden worked with the Berman Institute's advisory board to establish a new home for the institute in Deering Hall, a former police building in Baltimore, in 2011.
A prolific scholar, Faden is the author and editor of numerous books and many articles on biomedical ethics and public policy, including Social Justice: The Moral Foundations of Public Health and Health Policy, with Madison Powers, and A History and Theory of Informed Consent, with Tom L. Beauchamp.
Faden is a member of the Institute of Medicine, and a fellow of both the Hastings Center and the American Psychological Association. She has served on numerous national advisory committees and commissions, including President Clinton’s Advisory Committee on Human Radiation Experiments, which she chaired. Faden co-launched the Global Food Ethics and Policy Program. She is a co-founder of the Hinxton Group, a global community committed to advancing ethical and policy challenges in stem cell science. Faden also co-founded the Second Wave initiative, an effort to ensure that the health interests of pregnant women are fairly represented in biomedical research and drug and device policies.
In 2011, she received lifetime achievement awards from the American Society for Bioethics and Humanities, and from Public Responsibility in Medicine and Research.
Faden's research has focused on global justice theory; national and global challenges in food and agriculture; learning health care systems; health systems design and priority setting; and access to the benefits of global investments in biomedical research. Faden also has worked on ethical challenges in biomedical science, with a particular focus on women’s health.