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Welcome and Opening Remarks

CHAIRMAN KASS:  Could we get started, please.  Greetings, fellow Council Members, Guests, Members of the Public.  Welcome to this the 10th Meeting of the President's Council on Bioethics, and welcome to Virginia.  I want to acknowledge the presence of our Executive Director, Dean Clancy, who is also the Designated Federal Officer, in whose presence this is an official meeting.

In this first session, we will be discussing Pediatric Psychopharmacology, a topic which comes to our attention first in keeping with our exploration of the beyond therapeutic uses of psychotropic drugs in children and in youth, stimulants like Ritalin, anti-depressants like Prozac, of interest to us for their possible uses beyond therapy for personal enhancement and social control.

The Council has been on this topic a couple of times in the past.  We certainly recognize that there are clear disorders for which these drugs are not just indicated, but indispensable.  And yet at the same time, we are concerned about the possible over-use of these medications, and struggling amongst ourselves to figure out what the boundaries are between appropriate and inappropriate use. 

In the last meeting, a series of possible topics for further exploration was suggested in the Council discussion, some of them financial incentives, practices of insurance companies, and the pharmaceutical companies, but there was also a request that we pursue questions of some of the deeper diagnostic, cultural, and conceptual issues that make performance enhancement and behavior control so tempting, that also might bear upon why depression and self-discontent is so common, and why both are so liable to be addressed through medicines, and through drugs.

And to help us in this discussion, we're really very, very fortunate to have as our guest this morning Dr. Steve Hyman.  He's a Professor of Neurobiology at the Harvard Medical School, the Provost of Harvard University, and from 1996 to 2001 was the Director of NIMH.  Dr. Hyman is a careful and profound student in really all aspects of this topic from the nature of mental illness to the ?- its biological substrate and its social and cultural implications, and also on the uses of drugs, the abuses of drugs and addiction.

As I learned from conversation with him about a month ago, he began really in philosophy and philosophy of science, and also a kind of a philosophical interest in the matters under discussion.  It's really just a great pleasure to welcome you, Dr. Hyman, to the Council Meeting and look forward to your presentation.


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