April 16, 2024

New US bioethics commission appointed

Is the selection unimaginative?

US President Barack Obama has appointed 10 more bioethics
, bringing membership of the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical
up to 12. The appointees join the current chair, Amy Gutman,
and vice-chair, James Wagner.

They are a diverse group. Lonnie Ali is the
wife of Muhammed Ali; Anita L. Allen is a law professor at the University of
Pennsylvania; Barbara Atkinson, a pathologist, is executive dean of the
University of Kansas School of Medicine; Nita A. Farahany, of Vanderbilt
University, is an expert in the legal and ethical consequences of neuroscience;
Alexander Garza is the Assistant Secretary for Health Affairs and Chief Medical
Officer for the Department of Homeland Security; Christine Grady is head of the
Department of Bioethics at the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center; Stephen
L. Hauser is a neuro-immunologist at the University of California San
Francisco; Raju Kucherlapati is  a
professor of genetics at Harvard; Nelson Michael is the head of the US Military
HIV Research program; Daniel Sulmasy is a Franciscan who works at the
MacLean Center for Clinical Medical Ethics at the University of Chicago.

News of the appointments was not an item
which attracted much attention in the media. However Summer
Johnson, of the American Journal of Bioethics, was disappointed
by a
distinguished, but unimaginative, selection:

“…if nothing revolutionary happens in the
world of scientific research over the next 3 years, then this commission will
do fine. But history tells us this is unlikely to be the case. Moreover, this
list of members really lacks creativity in terms of what a bioethics commission
COULD have done. What about a systems biologist or nanomedicine researcher (in
any one of the many disciplines of nanomedicine)?”

Michael Cook
bioethics commissions