This February will mark an important milestone for the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues (Bioethics Commission); the Bioethics Commission will hold its 20th public meeting. The 2-day meeting will be held February 5-6, 2015, in Washington, D.C. Since President Obama issued the Executive Order establishing the Commission on November 24, 2009, it has convened quarterly each year in order to publically discuss and deliberate various bioethical topics. As a Federal Advisory Committee, the Commission conducts all meetings and deliberations in public.
The Bioethics Commission held its first public meeting July 8-9, 2010 in Washington, D.C. to discuss its first topic, synthetic biology and the ethics of new technologies. The Commission has since covered a wide breadth of topics including privacy and genomic sequencing, ethical treatment of research participants, ethical duties of returning incidental findings, and the ethical conduct of neuroscience research. This year Commission meetings have focused on neuroscience; bioethics education and deliberation; and public health emergency response, with a focus on the current Ebola virus disease (EVD) epidemic.
During its quarterly meetings, Commission members hear from experts relevant to the topic being deliberated. After meeting 20, the Commission will have heard from more than 200 speakers. These speakers have come from across the U.S. and the world, and represent a variety of disciplines and interests including science, technology, law, medicine, and affected communities. Presentations from these experts provide Commission members with background information and lay the foundation for their deliberations. The roundtable discussions that occur during the public meetings serve to inform the recommendations published in each report. After meeting 20, the Commission will have engaged in more than 135 hours of public discussion and deliberation to inform its recommendations.
The Bioethics Commission does not rely on one ethical framework to guide its deliberations and recommendations. Instead, the Commission often draws upon broader ethical principles to inform its conversations and resulting analyses and recommendations. Some key bioethical principles that have run throughout many of the Commission’s reports include beneficence, democratic deliberation, respect for persons, as well as justice and fairness.
At meeting 20 the Bioethics Commission will continue to discuss the ethical considerations of neuroscience research, as well as public health emergency response in the context of the current EVD epidemic. Details, including the meeting location and agenda, will be posted to Bioethics.gov on the Meeting page. Meetings are always open to the public, and guests are encouraged to attend. For those unable to attend, all meetings are webcast live and archived at Bioethics.gov/meetings. See you February 5-6, 2015!