February 29, 2024

Obama sets up new bioethics commission

More pragmatic than Bush’s Council

A political scientist and a materials engineer will lead the new
Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues. President
Barack Obama announced this week that Amy Gutman,  president of the
University of Pennsylvania, and James W. Wagner, president of Emory
University, in Georgia, are to be the chair and vice-chair of the

President Obama said, “As our nation invests in
science and innovation and pursues advances in biomedical research and
health care, it’s imperative that we do so in a responsible manner.
This new Commission will develop its recommendations through practical
and policy-related analyses.”

As expected, these appointments
suggest that the new commission will be more a policy-making body than
a graduate seminar in bioethics, as its counterpart was in the Bush
Administration. According to the White House press release, its goal
will be “identifying and promoting policies and practices that ensure
scientific research, health care delivery, and technological innovation
are conducted in an ethically responsible manner”.

The commission will have 13 members, 5 fewer than the previous bioethics commission. The other 11 will be announced later.

commission’s brief seems to focus on the intersection of technology and
human dignity. According to the Science Progress blog, it is entrusted
with studying “the creation of stem cells by novel means; intellectual
property issues involving genetic sequencing, biomarkers, and other
screening tests used for risk assessment; and the application of neuro-
and robotic sciences… the protection of human research participants;
scientific integrity and conflicts of interest in research; and the
intersection of science and human rights.”

Michael Cook
bioethics commissions