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Your Commission, Should You Choose to Accept It (And We Do!)

Yesterday President Obama issued an Executive Order establishing the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues. The Commission’s Chair will be Amy Gutmann, President of the University of Pennsylvania and a political theorist. Its Vice Chair will be James W. Wagner, President of Emory University and an engineer. Over her career, Dr. Gutmann has authored over 15 books on ethics, politics, and public policy in a pluralist democracy; she also led the University Center for Human Values at Princeton University. Dr. Wagner has been a leader in the field by incorporating ethics as one of the six pillars of Emory’s strategic vision, and he worked at the Food and Drug Administration for almost a decade ensuring the quality of medical devices.

President Obama said this in the White House press release:

As our nation invests in science and innovation and pursues advances in biomedical research and health care, it’s imperative that we do so in a responsible manner. This new Commission will develop its recommendations through practical and policy-related analyses. I am confident that Amy and Jim will use their decades of experience in both ethics and science to guide the new Commission in this work, and I look forward to listening to their recommendations in the coming months and years.

At Science Progress, we are glad that the president has chosen such distinguished scholars and leaders as Drs. Gutmann and Wagner to chair this commission. The Executive Order provides for a commission comprised of 13 members who will be appointed by the president for renewable periods of two years. We look forward to the announcement of the remaining 11 members.

The commission has been charged with not only identifying and examining important bioethical issues, but also with recommending laws, policies, or regulations. Finally, the EO encourages the commission to engage diverse viewpoints and explore opportunities for international collaboration.

Additionally, the commission is designed so that is will draw members from multiple disciplines ranging from science and bioethics to theology and law. At least one and not more than three of the members will be scientists or bioethicists from the executive branch. Finally, the EO lays out a list of timely, critical issues and ideas that will no doubt change our lives, and many of which staff and contributors have explored in Science Progress:

…the creation of stem cells by novel means; intellectual property issues involving genetic sequencing, biomarkers, and other screening tests used for risk assessment; and the application of neuro- and robotic sciences…the protection of human research participants; scientific integrity and conflicts of interest in research; and the intersection of science and human rights.

Update: The Executive Order establishing the commission is now available in the Federal Register.


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