Free the National Bioethics Commission

By Caplan, Arthur L. | Issues in Science and Technology, Summer 2003 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Free the National Bioethics Commission


Caplan, Arthur L., Issues in Science and Technology


The creation of a national commission in the United States to study and discuss bioethical questions seemed imperative a decade ago. One reason was that a number of other countries, including Australia, Denmark, France, and Great Britain, had created national commissions that were producing useful results for both science and the general public. Another was that previous national commissions from the early 1980s had proven helpful in identifying and managing various bioethical challenges.

There also seemed to be no shortage of bioethical problems that demanded national debate. The key problems of the moment included the need to examine the adequacy of protections for human subjects in clinical research; to set policies covering the application of new genetic knowledge, especially with respect to individual privacy and confidentiality; to determine whether and how research on embryos should be allowed and funded; to develop an ethically grounded policy for dealing with the human immunodeficiency virus/acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (HIV/AIDS) on a global basis; and to examine what should be done to move the nation toward universal access to health care.

In retrospect, these were good reasons to create a national commission. This diagnosis of pressing problems also proved to be prescient: Each of these areas has proved to be explosive and controversial. In the intervening years, a series of research scandals has shaken the legitimacy of human subjects research to its core. The completion of a rough map of the human genome has prompted concern among many people, and their worries have helped push forward, for better or worse, the Health Information Privacy Protection Act, which many research institutions and universities are struggling to implement. National and international public interest regarding embryo research seems destined to mount, in the wake of the cloning of Dolly the sheep; the announcement by a private company of the creation of the first cloned human embryo; and subsequent announcements by various cults, kooks, and fringe scientists that they have made or soon will make the first cloned human baby. There has been and continues to be much controversy about how to conduct both research and charity to fight the scourge of HIV/AIDS in poor nations. And without a moral consensus about how to make sure that every U.S. citizen has access to requisite health care, nothing has been done to advance this avowed goal of many people in society and politics.

Hopes not met

Certainly, all of these woes cannot be the result of a failure to create a national bioethics commission, for there have been not one but two such commissions since 1994. In that year, President Clinton created the National Bioethics Advisory Commission, and President Bush announced in 2001 the creation of a Council on Bioethics to advise him. (Harold Shapiro, then president of Princeton University, headed the first body, and Leon R. Kass, a University of Chicago professor, chairs the second.) So if all of these issues remain unresolved, what could the possible value have been of a national bioethics commission?

Without question, the two groups have done a lot of work. They have held hearings, issued reports, created Web sites, given advice to the presidents, and engaged the public through the media and the writings of commission members about various issues.

It can fairly be said, however, that neither of these groups really lived up to the hopes that many observers, including myself, had for what a national bioethics commission could achieve.

One hope was for a commission that would have independence from political constraints. That would require a commission with a long tenure, a strong professional staff, an adequate research budget, and firm bipartisan support. The two commissions created during the past decade have had few of these traits.

President Clinton's National Bioethics Advisory Commission might have proven to be a forum for public engagement and independent research, but it was quickly sucked into the contretemps that followed the cloning of Dolly the sheep.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Free the National Bioethics Commission
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.