Several staff and members of the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues (Bioethics Commission) attended the American Society for Bioethics and Humanities (ASBH) annual meeting, held in Houston, Texas October 22-25, 2015. ASBH is a diverse organization of professionals and students engaged in clinical and academic bioethics and the medical humanities. Along with leading multiple sessions on Bioethics Commission work, the Bioethics Commission was pleased to host a booth in the conference exhibition hall. The exhibit featured Bioethics Commission reports, including its most recent reports, Gray Matters: Integrative Approaches for Neuroscience, Ethics, and Society (Gray Matters, Vol. 1), Gray Matters: Topics at the Intersection of Neuroscience, Ethics, and Society (Gray Matters, Vol. 2), and Ethics and Ebola: Public Health Planning and Response. The Bioethics Commission also distributed “Ethically Impossible” STD Research in Guatemala from 1946 to 1948 and Moral Science: Protecting Participants in Human Subjects Research. For others who were unable to attend ASBH, all materials are available for free download at bioethics.gov.
ASBH provided an opportunity to interact with 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—if you have used our materials and are interested in sharing your experience, please email email@example.com!
The Bioethics Commission staff received many great questions at the exhibit. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions:
What is the Bioethics Commission currently working on?
The Bioethics Commission is working on a project on deliberation and ethics education. The Bioethics Commission stands behind strong democratic deliberation and enhancing ethics education. Throughout its tenure, Bioethics Commission members have modeled productive deliberation about a number of controversial topics. The Bioethics Commission has made a dozen recommendations about enhancing public and bioethics education, and the staff has produced a variety of educational materials based on report topics. This project on deliberation and education will be the Bioethics Commission’s capstone report, and will make recommendations about how these areas can mutually reinforce each other.
How does the Bioethics Commission choose the topics that it works on?
Topics come before the Bioethics Commission in two ways. The Executive Office of the President or a member of the President’s cabinet can ask the Bioethics Commission to study a particular topic or question and recommend an ethical way forward. The Bioethics Commission also can choose a topic based on pressing issues in the field.
How does the Bioethics Commission promote public bioethics?
All Bioethics 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 at bioethics.gov. These meetings provide a unique opportunity to witness the live deliberations of a national bioethics commission—public bioethics in action. The Bioethics 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. The Bioethics Commission’s next meeting will be held on November 17, 2015 in Arlington, VA. Written comments are accepted in advance of each meeting; please address written comments by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
How does the Bioethics Commission disseminate its work?
As a part of its ongoing goal to educate the public and stakeholders about the Bioethics Commission’s recommendations, members and staff participate in many outreach events each year. In addition to discussing the findings of the Commission’s reports, the staff has produced a variety of educational materials based on report topics with the goal of making ethics accessible to a variety of stakeholders in both traditional and nontraditional education contexts.
What happens to the Bioethics 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 Bioethics Commission currently operates has been extended until September 2017. However, if history repeats itself, it is likely that the Bioethics 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.
Thanks to all who stopped by our booth this year!