Last week the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues (Bioethics Commission) attended the American Society for Bioethics and Humanities (ASBH) annual meeting, held in San Diego, California October 16-19. Along with leading multiple presentations, the Bioethics Commission was pleased to host a booth in the conference’s exhibition hall. The exhibit featured Commission reports as well as new communications materials. Several hundred copies of “Ethically Impossible” STD Research in Guatemala from 1946 to 1948, Safeguarding Children: Pediatric Medical Countermeasure Research, Anticipate and Communicate: Ethical Management of Incidental and Secondary Findings, and Gray Matters: Integrative Approaches for Neuroscience, Ethics, and Society flew off the table so quickly that we ran out of copies before the end of the conference’s second day. If you were not able to get a hard copy of your favorite report, all materials are available for free download on our website.
ASBH provided an opportunity to interact with many colleagues from across the bioethics community; many attendees reported using our educational resources in their classrooms. The Bioethics Commission welcomes feedback and likes to hear how its materials are being used, so if you have used our materials and are interested in sharing your experience, please email firstname.lastname@example.org!
The Bioethics Commission received many great questions at our exhibit. Here are some of the most commonly asked questions:
What is the Bioethics Commission currently working on?
The Commission is continuing its work on neuroscience. At its next public meeting on Nov. 5-6 in Salt Lake City, Utah, the Commission will be deliberating recommendations on neuroscience and related ethical issues. Gray Matters, Vol. 2, thefollow up to the May 2014 report Gray Matters: Integrative Approaches for Neuroscience, Ethics, and Society, is expected to be released in spring 2015 and will address important ethical issues related to applications and implications of neuroscience research.
In addition to neuroscience research and related ethical issues, the Bioethics Commission will begin discussions on its next topic – a self-directed topic – the role of deliberation and education in bioethics– at the November meeting. The Commission will focus on their symbiotic relationship as twin pillars of public bioethics: Education is required for informed deliberation, and deliberation enhances education at all levels.
How does the Bioethics Commission choose the topics that it works on?
The Executive Office of the President may ask the Bioethics Commission to study a particular topic or answer a particular question and report back; Gray Matters and “Ethically Impossible” are examples of two reports that came at the request of the President. 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 does the Bioethics Commission promote public bioethics?
All Commission deliberations occur in public during its quarterly meetings. Anyone who is interested may attend these public meetings, or watch the meeting via live webcast. These meetings allow for the unique opportunity to witness the live deliberations of a national bioethics commission—public bioethics in action. The Commission welcomes input from anyone wishing to provide public comment on any issue before it, and is particularly interested in receiving comments and questions during meetings that are responsive to specific sessions. Written comments are accepted in advance of each meeting; please address written comments by email to email@example.com. In addition, the Commission posts regular updates to its blog—blog.bioethics.gov—and to Twitter.
How do you get to be on the Bioethics Commission?
Each Commission member is selected by the Executive Office of the President and serves for the term of the Commission.
Are there any staff employment opportunities available?
Currently there are no openings for staff positions. When opportunities come up, we post all of our vacancies on our website under Employment Opportunities.
How do I get in touch with the Bioethics Commission?
The best way to contact the Commission is via email. All correspondence is reviewed and logged. For public comments and questions please email firstname.lastname@example.org; for comments on or questions about educational materials please email email@example.com.
What happens to the commission after President Obama’s term is over?
Like all federal advisory bodies, the Bioethics Commission must be renewed every two years. The Executive Order under which the Commission currently operates expires in September 2015. Even if President Obama again extends his order and issues an additional continuance for the Commission, it is expected that this Commission, in its current form, will complete its work at the close of President Obama’s term in January 2017. At that time, it is also expected – though not guaranteed – that the next president will establish his or her own bioethics commission.
Where can I access reports published by previous bioethics commissions?
The Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues is a separate commission from those established by previous presidents, and therefore does not maintain archives for previous commissions. Our website provides links to various archived material from past commissions, including some links to previous commissions’ reports. Most of these archives are maintained by either Georgetown University or George Washington University.
Thanks to all who stopped by our booth this year!