Frequently Asked Questions about the

Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues


What is the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues (the Bioethics Commission)?

The Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues is an advisory panel of the nation’s leaders in medicine, science, ethics, religion, law and engineering.  The Bioethics Commission advises the President on bioethical issues arising from advances in biomedicine and related areas of science and technology.

What does the Bioethics Commission do?

The Bioethics Commission seeks to identify and promote policies and practices that ensure scientific research, health care delivery, and technological innovation are conducted in a socially and ethically responsible manner.

The Bioethics Commission conducts its work by engaging in original empirical and conceptual research, commissioning papers and studies, holding public meetings, and developing reports and other materials for public distribution. 

The Bioethics Commission is guided by a commitment to critically examine and explore diverse perspectives, to engage and educate the public on bioethics issues, and to pursue international collaboration to advance ethically responsible practices and policies.

Have other Presidents had bioethics commissions?

The Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues continues the nearly forty-year history of groups established by the President or Congress to provide expert advice on topics related to bioethics. These groups have differed in their composition, methods, and areas of focus, but they have shared a common commitment to the careful examination and analysis of ethical considerations that underlie our nation’s activities in science, medicine, and technology.

How long will the Commission exist?

The Bioethics Commission was established by Executive Order 13521 in November 2009.  It was extended by Executive Order in November 2011 and again in September 2013 and September 2015. Executive Order 13708 has extended the Commission until September 30, 2017.

How are the Commission members selected?

The Bioethics Commission members are selected by the Executive Office of the President and serve for the term of the Bioethics Commission.

Who serves on the Bioethics Commission?

Amy Gutmann, Ph.D., President of the University of Pennsylvania chairs the Bioethics Commission. Jim Wagner, Ph.D., President of Emory University is Vice Chair. The other 8 Members include:  Anita L. Allen, J.D., Ph.D.; Barbara F. Atkinson, M.D.; Nita A. Farahany, J.D., Ph.D.; Christine Grady, R.N., Ph.D.; Stephen L. Hauser, M.D.; Raju Kucherlapati, Ph.D.; Col. Michael Nelson, M.D. Ph.D.; and Daniel Sulmasy, M.D., Ph.D.

How does the Bioethics Commission select its study subjects?

The Executive Office of the President asks the Bioethics Commission to study a particular subject or answer a particular question and report back.  In addition, the Commission may accept suggestions of issues for consideration from executive departments and agencies and the public, as it deems appropriate in support of its mission.

How often does the Bioethics Commission meet? Are the meetings open to the public?

The full Bioethics Commission meets at least four times a year or more as needed. Those meetings are open to the public.

Does the Bioethics Commission review or approve research grants?

 No.  The Bioethics Commission has no involvement with public or private grants. 




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