Medical Countermeasures – blog.Bioethics.gov https://bioethicsarchive.georgetown.edu/pcsbi/blog The blog of the 2009 - 2017 Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues Mon, 09 Jan 2017 23:23:29 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Looking Back at the Bioethics Commission’s Blog https://bioethicsarchive.georgetown.edu/pcsbi/blog/2016/12/05/looking-back-at-the-bioethics-commissions-blog/ https://bioethicsarchive.georgetown.edu/pcsbi/blog/2016/12/05/looking-back-at-the-bioethics-commissions-blog/#respond Mon, 05 Dec 2016 16:00:04 +0000 https://bioethicsarchive.georgetown.edu/pcsbi/blog/?p=2125 Throughout its tenure, the Bioethics Commission has maintained an active digital presence to connect with a global audience. A major component of this has been through its blog. This final blog post reflects on the role the blog has played in disseminating the Bioethics Commission’s work.first-blog

Former Bioethics Commission Executive Director Valerie Bonham launched the commission’s blog on November 15, 2010, announcing that the staff would be liveblogging during Meeting Three in Atlanta. From that meeting onward, Bioethics Commission staff continued to blog live from the Bioethics Commission’s meetings, held throughout the country in cities including Washington DC, Philadelphia, Salt Lake City, San Francisco, Chicago, and Boston. Meeting posts highlighted salient points of discussion as they occurred during the public meetings. For example, during Meeting Three, a blog post outlined the members’ deliberations regarding the risks and benefits of synthetic biology. During Meeting Eighteen, which focused on ethical issues in neuroscience, a blog post highlighted some of the discussion about the ethical challenges in neuroscience research. The Bioethics Commission also used blog posts to distill complex topics that arose during meetings. During Meeting Twelve, which focused on pediatric medical countermeasure research, a blog post presented a simplified structure of some of the federal regulations concerning pediatric research.

The commission’s blog also highlighted and explained the impact of the commission’s work. For example, during the commission’s tenure, a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) to revise the Common Rule—the regulations that govern the ethical conduct of federally supported human subjects research—was published in the Federal Register on September 8, 2015. Elements of the commission’s work were included in this notice. In September and October 2015, the Bioethics Commission released a series of blog posts that described some of the relevant inclusions in the NPRM, and explained their significance.

The Bioethics Commission also used the blog to share its outreach activities and initiatives with a broad readership. For example, when Bioethics Commission staff attended the annual meeting of the American Society of Bioethics and Humanities in October 2015, a blog post highlighted the commission’s outreach efforts, and included answers to frequently asked questions that staff members fielded while at the conference. When the Bioethics Commission presented at the White House BRAIN conference, a blog post shared Executive Director Lisa M. Lee’s remarks. On June 8, 2016, Col. Nelson Michael gave an interview with the bioethics news site BioEdge, and the Bioethics Commission staff wrote a two-part blog post on some of the issues Col. Michael raised regarding democratic deliberation and ethics education. Blog posts were also written to describe publications in academic journals by Commission members and staff. A blog post shared a commentary written by Bioethics Commission Vice Ch
air Dr. James Wagner, who wrote about the importance of early ethics education.

During its tenure, the Bioethics Commission produced over 65 educational materials, and used the blog to picture1announce the availability of new educational materials, including user guides, primers, classroom discussion guides, and deliberative scenarios. Blog posts also helped outline how to use the educational materials. Blog posts also highlighted topics including innovations in ethics education, and the importance of civic engagement. The Bioethics Commission also used the blog to announce and promote its podcast series Ethically Sound, a 10-episode series that focuses on some of the ethical issues raised in the commission’s reports.
Readers can access previous blog posts, educational materials, the podcast series Ethically Sound, along with all of the Bioethics Commission’s reports and related materials at bioethics.gov. On behalf of the Bioethics Commission, we thank our readers for their continued interest in the work of the commission.

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Ethically Sound Episode 10: Charting a Path Forward https://bioethicsarchive.georgetown.edu/pcsbi/blog/2016/11/21/ethically-sound-episode-10-charting-a-path-forward/ https://bioethicsarchive.georgetown.edu/pcsbi/blog/2016/11/21/ethically-sound-episode-10-charting-a-path-forward/#respond Mon, 21 Nov 2016 16:00:01 +0000 https://bioethicsarchive.georgetown.edu/pcsbi/blog/?p=2052 The tenth and final episode of the Bioethics Commission’s podcast series, Ethically Sound, is now available. Today’s episode, “Charting a Path previewscreensnapz001Forward,” focuses on the Bioethics Commission’s two most recent public meetings, during which the Bioethics Commission reflected on the impact of past, present, and future of national bioethics advisory bodies.

Since the 1970s, the U.S. has had a succession of national advisory bodies to provide Congress or the President with expert advice on topics related to bioethics. Other countries also benefit from advisory bodies that provide advice about bioethi
cal issues. During its twenty-fifth and twenty-sixth public meetings, the Bioethics Commission heard
from members of past bioethics advisory bodies, representatives of international bioethics bodies, as well as officials who have been advised by such bodies.

The podcast opens with a narrative from Alex Capron, Professor of Law and Medicine at the University of Southern California. Mr. Capron chaired the Biomedical Ethics Advisory Committee from 1987 to 1990, and served on President William J. Clinton’s National Bioethics Advisory Body from 1996 to 2001. Mr. Capron presented before the commission during Meeting 26, and reflected on his experiences with both of these advisory bodies. In the podcast, Mr. Capron recounts a challenging experience he faced while describing the disciplinary backgrounds of bioethics advisory body staff to policymakers unfamiliar with the interdisciplinary nature of bioethics.

The podcast also includes an interview with Bioethics Commission member Dr. Daniel Sulmasy, Kilbride-Clinton Chair in Medicine and Ethics at the University of Chicago. The interview was conducted by Hillary Wicai Viers, a former Communications Director with the Bioethics Commission staff. Dr. Sulmasy discussed the importance of looking to past commissions, the legacy of the current Bioethics Commission, and the pressing ethical issues that we could face in the future. Regarding the importance of looking to past bioethics commissions, Dr. Sulmasy said “The past is applicable because many of the most basic ethical questions are perennial. We may encounter new problems, but the most fundamental questions about human finitude, the meaning of human progress, the role of balancing relief of suffering versus other ethical principles, questions of cost, and justice are always with us.”

Episode 10, and all of the other Ethically Sound episodes, is now available on our website, as well as on our SoundCloud, YouTube and iTunes pages. Listeners can follow the podcast using #EthicallySound or by following us on Twitter @bioethicsgov. Stay tuned for our upcoming educational resource, a set of discussion questions to accompany the Ethically Sound series that can be used in a classroom or seminar setting. We welcome comments and feedback at info@bioethics.gov.

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Bioethics Deliberation and Education in Safeguarding Children https://bioethicsarchive.georgetown.edu/pcsbi/blog/2015/09/09/bioethics-deliberation-and-education-in-safeguarding-children/ https://bioethicsarchive.georgetown.edu/pcsbi/blog/2015/09/09/bioethics-deliberation-and-education-in-safeguarding-children/#respond Wed, 09 Sep 2015 16:29:25 +0000 https://bioethicsarchive.georgetown.edu/pcsbi/blog/?p=1706 In the most recent post for the “Deliberation and Education” series, we examined the role of deliberation in the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues (Bioethics Commission) fourth report Privacy and Progress in Whole Genome Sequencing. While not specifically citing democratic deliberation in its recommendations in Privacy and Progress, the Bioethics Commission actively demonstrated the principle by inviting experts from the public and private sectors to inform their public deliberations on the topic. The fifth post in the series will examine deliberation and education in the Commission’s fifth report: Safeguarding Children: Pediatric Medical Countermeasure Research.

At the request of the Secretary for Health and Human Services, the Bioethics Commission conducted a careful and transparent review of the ethical considerations of conducting medical countermeasure (MCM) research with children.

Safeguarding Children, published in March 2013, is the Bioethics Commission’s response to this request. In this report, the Commission made six recommendations concerning MCM research with children, differentiating between pre-event (before exposure to an agent) and post-event (after exposure) research. The Commission identified four ethical principles to guide their discussion of pediatric research protections: respect for persons, beneficence, justice, and democratic deliberation. The Commission recognized that in research, one example of democratic deliberation is community engagement—the process of including community members in an ongoing public exchange of ideas. Democratic deliberation can also be present in various aspects of institutional research review and approval. The Commission referenced community engagement and democratic deliberation in its recommendations for both pre- and post-event research.

In its fourth recommendation, the Bioethics Commission included community engagement in its recommended ethical framework for national-level review of pre-event research that poses more than minimal risk without a prospect of direct benefit. Through this framework, the Commission sough to specify a rigorous set of conditions necessary to determine whether research is conducted in accordance with “sound ethical principles”—a regulatory requirement for this exceptional type of research.

The Bioethics Commission determined that community engagement would be particularly important in a post-event scenario, when it’s necessary to educate the public about research, allow them to inform the researchers about their concerns, and encourage the public to utilize the results of the research. The Commission recommended that, for post-event research:

… Institutional review boards must also ensure that…provisions are made to engage communities throughout the course of research.

Both recommendations described here reflect the Bioethics Commission’s emphasis on the importance of democratic deliberation and its practical implementation. By engaging the community throughout the research process—be it pre- or post-event—researchers can ensure that the public remains aware of what is occurring, while the community can guarantee that its voices and concerns are being heard.

Safeguarding Children and all other Bioethics Commission reports are available at bioethics.gov.

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New Educational Module on Informed Consent in Safeguarding Children https://bioethicsarchive.georgetown.edu/pcsbi/blog/2014/07/29/new-educational-module-on-informed-consent-in-safeguarding-children/ https://bioethicsarchive.georgetown.edu/pcsbi/blog/2014/07/29/new-educational-module-on-informed-consent-in-safeguarding-children/#respond Tue, 29 Jul 2014 15:37:27 +0000 https://bioethicsarchive.georgetown.edu/pcsbi/blog/?p=1362 The Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues (Bioethics Commission) has just posted to Bioethics.gov a new educational module on informed consent in the context of pediatric medical countermeasure research. The module integrates material from the Bioethics Commission’s March 2013 report Safeguarding Children: Pediatric Medical Countermeasure Research.

The aim of this module is to help teachers and students understand the components of the consent process in the specific context of pediatric medical countermeasure (MCM) research, which investigates interventions to be used for children in the event of a bioterrorism attack. Pediatric MCM research raises complex ethical and regulatory issues. Children cannot ethically or legally give informed consent to participate in research, because their autonomy forms over time and is not fully developed until adulthood. In addition, pediatric MCM research that would take place before a bioterrorism attack occurs (pre-event) is ethically distinct from pediatric MCM research that would take place after an attack (post-event), due to differing risks and potential direct benefits for participants.

The moral and legal equivalent of informed consent in pediatric research involves two components: informed parental permission, and meaningful and developmentally appropriate child assent. In Safeguarding Children the Bioethics Commission’s recommendations emphasize the importance of informed parental permission and meaningful child assent in all pediatric MCM research.

Through discussion questions, scenarios, and exercises this module encourages students to consider the ethical complexities of informed consent in more depth, and offers a timely example and application of the process. The module highlights important differences between pre-event and post-event pediatric MCM research. For example, parents considering enrolling their child in pre-event research need to be well-informed about the lack of any potential direct benefit to their child; and in post-event research, the process of obtaining parental permission might be complicated if parents and children are in different locations.

This module is the latest addition to the Bioethics Commission’s series of modules on informed consent, which includes background material and modules discussing informed consent in the diverse contexts of historical U.S. Public Health Service STD research in Guatemala, whole genome sequencing, and incidental and secondary findings. By introducing students to the ethical nuances of informed consent in pediatric MCM research, this latest module adds a new dimension to the considerable resources the Bioethics Commission has developed on this important topic.

In addition, this module is the first the Bioethics Commission has developed based on its report Safeguarding Children. Future modules from this report, to be released soon, will cover topics including vulnerable populations and compensation for research-related injury.

All Bioethics Commission educational materials are freely available at www.bioethics.gov/education. The Bioethics Commission encourages feedback on its materials at education@bioethics.gov.

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Safeguarding Children in Emergencies through Ethical Pediatric Research https://bioethicsarchive.georgetown.edu/pcsbi/blog/2014/07/18/safeguarding-children-in-emergencies-through-ethical-pediatric-research/ https://bioethicsarchive.georgetown.edu/pcsbi/blog/2014/07/18/safeguarding-children-in-emergencies-through-ethical-pediatric-research/#respond Fri, 18 Jul 2014 15:00:29 +0000 https://bioethicsarchive.georgetown.edu/pcsbi/blog/?p=1357 Tomorrow, the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues (Bioethics Commission) will present its recommendations on pediatric medical countermeasure (MCM) research at the 10th Annual Pediatric Bioethics Conference in Seattle. The conference, hosted by the Treuman Katz Center for Pediatric Bioethics at the Seattle Children’s Hospital, takes place July 18 and 19, 2014; its theme: “New Opportunities, New Challenges: Exploring the Ethical Boundaries of Pediatric Research.”

The Bioethics Commission is well versed on the issue, having addressed research with children in its 2013 report Safeguarding Children: Pediatric Medical Countermeasure Research. MCM includes federally regulated drugs and products for use in response to chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear attacks (i.e., “events”). The report, requested in 2012 by former Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, addresses the ethical considerations of conducting MCM research with children, as well as, more specifically, pediatric anthrax vaccine adsorbed (AVA) research. Safeguarding Children contains a set of recommendations for conducting ethical pediatric MCM research, both before and after a bioterror event, including an ethical framework the Bioethics Commission developed that specifies criteria for national-level review of certain types of pre-event MCM research. Associate Director Michelle Groman, J.D. will present the Bioethics Commission’s analysis and recommendations and discuss how the ethical framework can be applied to pediatric research.

The Bioethics Commission developed its ethical framework to aid the reviewers of proposed pre-event pediatric MCM research that poses greater than minimal risk (but no more than a minor increase over minimal risk) and offers no prospect of direct benefit to participants. Pre-event MCM research involves testing children for a hypothetical condition with an undefined (and perhaps unknowable) likelihood of occurring. The Commission’s framework clarifies review criteria outlined in existing research regulations: (1) does the research present a reasonable opportunity to increase the understanding, prevention, or alleviation of a serious problem that could affect the health or welfare of children; (2) will the research be conducted in accordance with sound ethical principles; and (3) are adequate provisions made for soliciting the permission of parents or guardians and the meaningful assent of children? Before pre-event pediatric MCM research in which there is no prospect of direct benefit can proceed, all three conditions must be met.

The Bioethics Commission’s ethical framework also can inform the conduct of pediatric research beyond MCM research. Many of the framework’s tenets are relevant to national-level review of pediatric research in other contexts; these include criteria for scientific necessity, fair subject selection, and community engagement. Whether in MCM or other research studies, extra care always must be taken when children serve as research participants. The ethical framework outlined in Safeguarding Children is useful guidance that any pediatric researcher could draw upon to ensure that they have addressed key ethical dimensions.

The Seattle Children’s Pediatric Bioethics Conference will be webcast live at http://www.uwtv.org/pediatric/ and PDFs of speaker presentations and biographies will be made available after the sessions. Tune in on July 19 at 10:30 a.m. for the Bioethics Commission presentation “Recommendations from the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues: Safeguarding Children in Emergencies through Ethical Pediatric Research.”

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Bioethics Commission Staff Presents “Pediatric Medical Countermeasure Research” at PRIM&R Advancing Ethical Research Conference in Boston https://bioethicsarchive.georgetown.edu/pcsbi/blog/2013/11/06/bioethics-commission-staff-presents-pediatric-medical-countermeasure-research-at-primr-advancing-ethical-research-conference-in-boston/ https://bioethicsarchive.georgetown.edu/pcsbi/blog/2013/11/06/bioethics-commission-staff-presents-pediatric-medical-countermeasure-research-at-primr-advancing-ethical-research-conference-in-boston/#respond Wed, 06 Nov 2013 16:05:05 +0000 https://bioethicsarchive.georgetown.edu/pcsbi/blog/?p=1027 Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues (Bioethics Commission) Executive Director Lisa M. Lee, Ph.D, M.S., and Associate Director Michelle Groman, J.D., will be speaking at PRIM&R’s (Public Responsibility in Medicine and Research) 2013 Advancing Ethical Research Conference, which takes place Nov. 7-9 in Boston, Mass. Their session, “Pediatric Medical Countermeasure (MCM) Research: Enumerating Ethical Considerations to Aid with Policy Decisions,” will be moderated by Jeremy Sugarman, M.D., M.P.H, M.A., of the Berman Institute of Bioethics at Johns Hopkins University.

The Nov. 7 session, scheduled from 10:30-11:45 a.m., will outline the ethical principles that guided the Bioethics Commission’s deliberations on pediatric MCM research and review the recommendations made in the Bioethics Commission’s March 2013 report, Safeguarding Children: Pediatric Medical Countermeasure Research. The session will be aimed primarily at human subjects research professionals who face ethical issues in a practical way, according to Groman. “It is important that those who confront research ethics issues daily are part of this conversation about pediatric medical countermeasure research,” she said.

Safeguarding Children was released in response to a request from Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who asked the Bioethics Commission to study the question of anthrax vaccine trials with children after receiving a recommendation from another federal committee that such research be initiated, pending ethical review. In addition to reaching its conclusion about pediatric anthrax vaccine trials, the Bioethics Commission considered more generally the ethics of research on pediatric MCMs. “Pediatric MCM research is a particularly challenging case study that forces us to look more closely at current pediatric research regulations, and the ethics behind the policy,” Groman said.

In addition to communicating the Bioethics Commission’s process of deliberation in work towards Safeguarding Children and summarizing the report’s key conclusions, Groman hopes the session will demonstrate how the Bioethics Commission can offer a unique perspective on how advisory bodies might aid in making difficult policy decisions. “The Bioethics Commission brings together many individuals with diverse expertise, not only through its members but also through the many stakeholders who speak at Bioethics Commission meetings or submit written comments,” she said. “Open discussions help develop informed policy. That is certainly what happened with Safeguarding Children.

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Bioethics Commission Staff Presents “Pediatric Medical Countermeasure Research” at APHA in Boston https://bioethicsarchive.georgetown.edu/pcsbi/blog/2013/11/01/staff-and-bioethics-commission-member-to-present-on-pediatric-medical-countermeasure-research-at-14th-annual-meeting-and-exposition-of-the-apha-in-boston/ https://bioethicsarchive.georgetown.edu/pcsbi/blog/2013/11/01/staff-and-bioethics-commission-member-to-present-on-pediatric-medical-countermeasure-research-at-14th-annual-meeting-and-exposition-of-the-apha-in-boston/#respond Fri, 01 Nov 2013 18:14:09 +0000 https://bioethicsarchive.georgetown.edu/pcsbi/blog/?p=1017 Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues (Bioethics Commission) Executive Director Lisa M. Lee, Ph.D, M.S., Associate Director Michelle Groman, J.D., and Commission Member Christine Grady, R.N., Ph.D will be speaking at the 141st Annual Meeting and Exposition of the American Public Health Association (APHA), which takes place Nov. 2-6, in Boston, Mass. Their panel session, “Enumerating Ethical Considerations of Medical Countermeasure Research With Children,” will be moderated by Bioethics Commission Associate Director Kayte Spector-Bagdady, J.D., M.Bioethics.

The Nov. 4 session, scheduled from 4:30-6 p.m., will provide an overview of the ethical grounding of the Bioethics Commission’s review of pediatric medical countermeasure (MCM) research and describe the ethically distinct considerations of conducting such research before and after the occurrence of a terrorist attack. The Bioethics Commission released its recommendations on pediatric MCM research in its March 2013 report, Safeguarding Children: Pediatric Medical Countermeasure Research. Groman, who oversaw staff work on the report, says the APHA session will be aimed primarily at public health professionals. “In examining pediatric medical countermeasure research, the Bioethics Commission recognized both a duty to protect research participants and a duty to protect all children during an emergency, to the extent possible. We are talking about research ethics, but this is also clearly a public health ethics issue,” she said. “By engaging more people in the conversation on this topic, the Bioethics Commission is furthering its work.”

Safeguarding Children was released in response to a request from Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who asked the Bioethics Commission to study the question of anthrax vaccine trials with children after receiving a recommendation from another federal committee that such research be initiated, pending ethical review. In addition to reaching its conclusion about pediatric anthrax vaccine trials, the Bioethics Commission considered more generally the ethics of research on pediatric MCMs.

 

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See you at APHA in Boston https://bioethicsarchive.georgetown.edu/pcsbi/blog/2013/10/30/see-you-at-apha-in-boston/ https://bioethicsarchive.georgetown.edu/pcsbi/blog/2013/10/30/see-you-at-apha-in-boston/#respond Wed, 30 Oct 2013 14:32:18 +0000 https://bioethicsarchive.georgetown.edu/pcsbi/blog/?p=994 The Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues (the Bioethics Commission) will be participating in the 141st Annual Meeting and Exposition of the American Public Health Association in Boston, Mass. We look forward to seeing you at the following sessions:

Panel Session – Enumerating Ethical Considerations of Medical Countermeasure Research with Children (3442.0) at 4:30 p.m., Monday, November 4

Moderated by Bioethics Commission Associate Director Kayte Spector-Bagdady, J.D., M. Bioethics

                          Ethical Considerations for Medical Countermeasure Research with Children
                          Bioethics Commission Executive Director Lisa M. Lee, Ph.D., M.S.

                          Conducting Ethical Pre-event Medical Countermeasure Trials with Children
                          Bioethics Commission Associate Director Michelle Groman, J.D.

                          Conducting Ethical Post-event Medical Countermeasure Trials with Children
                          Commission Member Christine Grady, M.S.N, Ph.D.

Panel Session – Ethics of Privacy and Health Data (4105.0) at 11:10 a.m., Tuesday, November 5

                          Enabling Privacy and Progress: Protecting Individual Participants in Big Data
                          Bioethics Commission Associate Director Kayte Spector-Bagdady, J.D., M. Bioethics

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See you at ASBH in Atlanta https://bioethicsarchive.georgetown.edu/pcsbi/blog/2013/10/23/see-you-at-ashb-in-atlanta/ https://bioethicsarchive.georgetown.edu/pcsbi/blog/2013/10/23/see-you-at-ashb-in-atlanta/#respond Wed, 23 Oct 2013 21:10:42 +0000 https://bioethicsarchive.georgetown.edu/pcsbi/blog/?p=982 The Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues (the Bioethics Commission) will be participating in the American Society for Bioethics and Humanities (ASBH) 15th Annual Meeting in Atlanta, Ga. We look forward to seeing you at the following sessions:

Plenary Session, Friday, 9:15 a.m.
A Conversation with Amy Gutmann, Chair, Ph.D., Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues

Panel Session (324), Saturday, 11:45 a.m.
Post- “Privacy and Progress”: Emerging Legal and Ethical issues in Whole Genome Sequencing with Senior Policy and Research Analyst Elizabeth R. Pike, J.D., LL.M; Associate Director Kayte Spector-Bagdady, J.D., M.Bioethics; and Research Analyst Nicolle K. Strand, J.D., M.Bioethics. Associate Director Michelle Groman will moderate.

Paper Session (345), History/Research Ethics, Saturday, 3:15 p.m.
“Something of an Adventure”: Postwar NIH Research Ethos and the Guatemala STD Experiments with Associate Director Kayte Spector-Bagdady, J.D., M.Bioethics

Panel Session (414), Sunday, 9:45 a.m.
Moral innovation in a Changing World: Ethically Researching Medical Countermeasures with Children with Associate Director Michelle Groman, .J.D.; Professor of Philosophy David DeGrazia, Ph.D., George Washington University; Lead Medical Officer Robert M. Nelson, M.D., Ph.D., Food and Drug Administration. Executive Director Lisa M. Lee will moderate.

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Member Spotlight: John D. Arras https://bioethicsarchive.georgetown.edu/pcsbi/blog/2013/06/11/member-spotlight-john-d-arras/ https://bioethicsarchive.georgetown.edu/pcsbi/blog/2013/06/11/member-spotlight-john-d-arras/#respond Tue, 11 Jun 2013 17:41:10 +0000 https://bioethicsarchive.georgetown.edu/pcsbi/blog/?p=698 President Obama appointed philosopher John D. Arras, Ph.D., to the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues (Bioethics Commission) in May 2010. Dr. Arras is the Porterfield Professor of Biomedical Ethics and Professor of Philosophy at the University of Virginia, where he directs the Program in Bioethics and is affiliated with the Center for Biomedical Ethics and Humanities in the School of Medicine. He has also served as a longtime fellow and former board member of the Hastings Center, consults regularly at the National Institutes of Health, and is a founding member of the ethics advisory committee of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

As a child Arras already seemed to have the mindset of a philosopher. At an early age he developed a love for fly fishing; a sport that he says allows an individual the opportunity to be one with their thoughts. He spent many childhood family vacations fishing by himself, pondering life’s questions.

Arras went to college at the University of San Francisco knowing that his father wanted him to join the family engineering business. However, in his freshman year he found himself bored with business classes and intrigued by classes that left him wrestling with difficult ethical issues.

He later studied in Paris. While there he had the opportunity to study with French philosopher Paul Ricœur. Ricoeur is known for combining phenomenological description with hermeneutics; in 2000 he was awarded the Kyoto Prize in Arts and Philosophy.  Arras said this time with Ricoeur is what led him to realize his future. “Debating the nature of freedom and time with this world-famous philosopher, holding my own but realizing that he was certainly holding way back, gave me the confidence to go forward with graduate studies in philosophy.”

The Bioethics Commission’s recent report, Safeguarding Children: Pediatric Medical Countermeasures Research, responded to a question that, as Arras put it, keeps a person up at night. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius asked the Bioethics Commission to conduct a thorough review of the ethical considerations of conducting clinical trials of medical countermeasures with children, and to make recommendations regarding the conduct of trials of anthrax vaccine absorbed (AVA) post-exposure prophylaxis in children. This report, Arras felt, offered him the opportunity to stretch his philosophical muscles. He said the Bioethics Commission’s recommendations on these issues had to find the right balance to ensure protection for children enrolled in research studies, while also developing the knowledge needed to save children’s lives during a possible emergency. Arras is proud of the conclusions that the Bioethics Commission reached because he feels they found that balance.

Arras said he never dreamed that his career would take him to a Presidential Commission, but instead saw himself “as a modest laborer in the fields of academe and bioethics.” While, he never envisioned himself serving on the Bioethics Commission he said the experience “has been truly enriching and educational. I not only like but admire my colleagues; this experience is a privilege and pleasure.”

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