The blog of the 2009 – 2017 Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues

Sebelius: Ethical considerations critical in protecting children

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues today that its consideration of ethical issues around protecting children in the event of a terrorist attack or a pandemic scare was critically important, calling children’s safety “our highest priority.”

Sebelius asked the Commission early this year for ethical advice on the development of medical countermeasures for children. The issue that sparked the broad charge from Sebelius was on how to treat children who have been exposed to anthrax, which was first raised during a Homeland Security exercise.

Sebelius said soon after starting in her job in 2009 she called for a review of the department’s entire medical countermeasures system to check on preparedness for a terror attack, a large-scale disaster, or pandemic. That review was sparked by the outbreak of the H1N1 influenza pandemic. The Department of Health and Human Services is responsible for developing and stockpiling safe and effective medical countermeasures to protect the nation.

“I learned very quickly some of the difficult issues on medical countermeasures,” she said. “And while we have made some progress toward these goals for adults, the development of appropriate medical countermeasures for children has been slower.”

She continued: “That’s due in part to the challenges we face in collecting appropriate scientific information about pediatric populations. We know we have got to address this particular problem. But we have to do it thoughtfully and carefully, with our children’s safety as our highest priority.”

Sebelius said she needed scientific evidence and she also needed experts to look at “all the costs and benefits, risk and opportunities, and then proceed in a way that reflects our values as a nation.”

“We are relying on you, the President’s Bioethics Commission, which has delivered rational, independent, evidence-based advice on a wide range of complex bioethical issues. And I know I can look forward to receiving the same, when it comes to countermeasures for children,” she said.

Share this article

Leave a Reply

Read the comment policy before posting your comment.


This is a space for the members and staff of the 2009 -2017 Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues to communicate with the public about the work of the commission and to discuss important issues in bioethics.

As of January 15th, 2017 this blog will no longer be updated but continues to be available as an archive of the work of the 2009-2017 Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues

Learn more about the 2009 - 2017 Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues.