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

A Background on Deliberation and Education in Bioethics

Last August, the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues (Bioethics Commission) began formally discussing the role of deliberation and education in bioethics. As a part of this examination, the Bioethics Commission is exploring the idea of teaching deliberation as a tool to promote ethical literacy.

From the start, the Bioethics Commission has adopted democratic deliberation as its process for decision making. At the heart of this process is open and robust dialogue, demonstrated in the Commission’s quarterly public meetings, held most recently on May 27, 2015. The goal of democratic deliberation and the Commission’s decision-making process is not to have Commission members agree completely on all issues; instead, members strive to clearly identify issues during their deliberation and to reach consensus as to what advice to offer on how to navigate such issues.

Bioethics by its very nature is a multidisciplinary field, bringing together experts in medicine, law, science, and philosophy; however, there remains a need for improved bioethics education. Noting this educational gap, the Bioethics Commission has developed pedagogical materials to support the teaching of bioethics ideas, principles, and theories across many areas of study. The creation of these educational materials serves to further promote the development of deliberative democracy.

The resulting capstone report will serve to represent the Bioethics Commission’s “commitment to advance and promote education and deliberation on some of the most important issues of bioethics in our time,” said Commission Chair Dr. Amy Gutmann. “Recognizing that education is required for informed deliberation, and that deliberation enhances education at all levels, this new report will integrate deliberation and education as overarching themes of the Commission’s work, and focus on their symbiotic relationship as twin pillars of public bioethics,” Gutmann said.

While all reports produced to date have been topic-specific, deliberation and education have been a constant thread throughout the Bioethics Commission’s work. In this new blog series, we will examine how deliberation and education have appeared in the Commission’s reports and recommendations, from New Directions: The Ethics of Synthetic Biology and Emerging Topics to Gray Matters: Integrative Approaches for Neuroscience, Ethics, and Society. Can’t wait and want to examine the reports for yourself? Visit for a complete list of all Commission reports.

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.