Academic journal article The Hastings Center Report

A Trip to the Hill

Academic journal article The Hastings Center Report

A Trip to the Hill

Article excerpt

An institution dedicated to ethics must balance in-depth "ideas" work with practical policy recommendations. The goal is to put ideas into practice. We were excited, therefore, to see our recent special supplement to the Hastings Center Report, "Reprogenetics and Public Policy: Reflections and Recommendations," attract the interest of media and policymakers on Capitol Hill.

The supplement recommended that the United States take steps toward creating a national oversight body to regulate reproductive and genetic technologies in research and practice. This is a radical suggestion for some and a welcome and long-overdue suggestion for others. In December, I went to the Hill with Robert Cook-Deegan, a participant in the project that created the supplement, for a day of meetings with staffers from the offices of Senators Hilary Clinton (D.-N.Y.), Arlen Spector (R.-Penn.), and Ted Kennedy (D.-Mass.), and Congresswoman Louise Slaughter (D.-N.Y.). I was struck by many things: how young and bright the staffers are, how security has increased since September 11, and how, without exception, everyone agrees that the issues covered in our report are important and pressing.

The staffers had some very good questions, especially about logistical matters. How would the body be funded? How would it work with the FDA? For some of these questions I had complex answers, and for others I asked for their input, which proved helpful. Ultimately, however, the question of how to make such oversight a reality is less one of logistics and more one of political willingness. …

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