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Member Discussion of Education

Welcome back to our live coverage of the Bioethics Commission’s twenty-third meeting. During this session, Members discussed recommendations for bioethics education in their next report. Like deliberation, bioethics education is a topic that the Bioethics Commission has discussed at length in its public meetings. They have also developed over 50 educational tools related to the topics in their reports. These tools include case studies, teaching modules on key bioethics topics, classroom discussion guides, webinars, and videos, and they are all free and available online on our website at These materials are designed for teachers and students of bioethics in a variety of contexts, including traditional classroom as well as professional settings.

Members discussed four potential recommendations during this session. First, recognizing the critical role of schools in preparing citizens to participate in their communities and in fostering the values and skills that will help them to address the inevitable bioethical challenges they will face throughout life, they discussed recommending that educators at all levels, from pre-school to professional school, should incorporate into their curricula and courses ethics education tools, such as vivid real-world case studies aimed at the appropriate grade level, that focus on building moral character and ethical reasoning skills. It is upon this foundation that bioethics skill building will be developed. Members agreed that this will be an important recommendation to make. Members emphasized that most citizens as they age will face individual questions about medical decision making that have bioethical dimensions, regardless of their chosen profession.

Second, building on the Bioethics Commission’s recommendations in its past reports, including its first report on synthetic biology and its most recent report on neuroscience and ethics, Members discussed urging graduate and professional education, including in health, science, and technology fields, to include a strong bioethics component to help graduates understand and address the distinct ethical challenges that might arise in the practice of their chosen profession. Members agreed that this would be a valuable recommendation for their report.

Third, Members talked about recommending that education policy makers support professional development of teachers to prepare them to implement ethics and bioethics education and facilitate constructive conversations about complex bioethical questions. Since ethics education can benefit all students, regardless of age or ability, opportunities to participate in ethics education should be provided equitably.

Finally, Members agreed that both the processes and the outcomes of bioethics education should be evaluated to determine how particular programs can contribute to a more informed and ethically literate public. Educators and others involved in bioethics education should contribute to the development of appropriate evaluation tools for assessing how effective bioethics education is in developing related moral reasoning and decision-making skills.

The session concluded, and the Bioethics Commission will now turn to recommendations at the intersection of deliberation and education. Stay tuned!

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