After kicking Kass to the curb Obama has selected Amy Gutmann, the president of the University of Pennsylvania, to head a new bioethics council. The whole set up looks extremely promising:

Bioethical, social and legal questions relating to genomics and behavioural research are all on the commission’s agenda. So are issues of intellectual property, scientific integrity and conflicts of interest in research.

The contrast with the previous bioethics council established by President George W. Bush is stark. Bioethicist George Annas of Boston University, Massachusetts, has described that council, which existed in two incarnations, as having a “narrow, embryo-centric agenda”, focusing largely on the research implications of questions such as the moral status of the embryo and when life begins (see Nature 431, 19–20; 2004).

In another break with the past, Obama has chosen not to appoint bioethicists to lead the commission. Instead, it will be chaired by political theorist Amy Gutmann, president of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, and its vice-chair will be materials scientist James Wagner, president of Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia.

Gutmann’s work deals with deliberative democracy, and using reasoned argument to depolarize politics.

Imagine that, Obama appointed someone who made her name trying to depolarize politics. It gives me hope.

[“US Bioethics council promises policy action”  Nature]

Tagged with: