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

Presenters Reflect on National Bioethics Advisory Bodies

In the second session of the day, the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues (Bioethics Commission) heard from a series of speakers reflecting on the past, present, and future impact of national bioethics advisory bodies. Presenters included Robert Cook-Deegan, Professor at the School for the Future of Innovation in Society at Arizona State University; Alexander M. Capron, Scott H. Bice Chair in Healthcare, Law, Policy and Ethics; Thomas H. Murray, President Emeritus of the Hastings Center; and Jonathan Montgomery, Chair of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics.

Robert Cook-Deegan served on as a member of the Biomedical Ethical Advisory Committee (1987-1990). He observed that the position of the Biomedical Ethical Advisory Committee in Congress as opposed to the executive branch might have contributed to its failure. He noted that an important goal of bioethics commissions should be political impact—for example, the President’s Commission in its Defining Death report influenced state laws. “If a Commission is sanctioned by the US government…there should be something that connects it to the political apparatus, there should be something that you’re doing that matters.”

Alexander M. Capron previously spoke before the Bioethics Commission in 2010 during Meeting 2 regarding the oversight of emerging technologies. Today, he reflected on his time on Chair of the Biomedical Ethics Advisory Committee (1987-1990), and as a member of the National Bioethics Advisory Commission (1995-2001). He emphasized that our Commission has set a good example, showing the ways in which ethical issues move from the research stage to the impact in clinical practice and society. He also noted that topics in public health ethics deserve further examination by bioethics bodies.

Thomas H. Murray, who presented before the Bioethics Commission during Meetings 3 (on emerging technologies), 14 (on integrating ethics throughout the research process), and 21 (in memoriam of John Arras), recalled his time as a member of the National Bioethics Advisory Council (NBAC). He noted the importance of a diversity of perspectives, including ideological and religious variation. He also stated: “Our reports influenced how IRBs, regulators, and researchers think about a variety of issues,” emphasizing the impact that bioethics commissions can have on shaping the debate for generations to come. He complimented our Commission on thoughtful work and excellent use of democratic deliberation to address complex issues.

Jonathan Montgomery previously presented before the Bioethics Commission during Meeting 15 on the Nuffield Council’s efforts to address the social implications of novel advances in neuroscience as the commission deliberated about the ethical and social implications of the President’s BRAIN Initiative prior to releasing its report Gray Matters. At today’s meeting, he discussed his experience on the Nuffield Council of Bioethics in the United Kingdom. He emphasized that Nuffield is not beholden to anyone in terms of the topics they select, which affords them more freedom to explore controversial issues. “It’s crucial that we are courageous,” he said. Respecting the public’s opinion does not mean accepting it without scrutiny.

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About blog.Bioethics.gov

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

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