Bioethical Jets and Sharks

Recently, Professor Craig Klugman called on the President to set up his Presidential Bioethics Commission. He provides a nice history of Presidential Bioethics Commissions dating back to President Ford. The link to that article is HERE. Other than the usual implication that the President may not be intellectually up to the challenge, I agree with Professor Klugman that there are many pressing bioethical issues that will or ought to affect policy in the not-too-distant future, so I also join the chorus to call for the President to set up his bioethics commission.

Professor Klugman’s plea for such a commission followed an earlier one by Wesley Smith, who called for a “populist” bioethics commission. He admits to desiring a less intellectual or less philosophical commission so we are not limited to receiving only “arcane advice”, preferring instead to have “the verbal equivalent of West Side Story’s knife fight between the Jets and the Sharks.” I admit that a commission with that type of energy would be fun to follow and certainly generate more public awareness of bioethics.

This got me to wondering: What do the readers of this blog consider to be the most pressing bioethics issue? Specifically, if the President listens to Wesley Smith and appoints you to the populist Presidential Commission on Bioethics, what is the one issue you want to make sure makes the list for 2017-2020?

For me, I favor a robust re-examination of what we as a country will permit or proscribe in embryological research, particularly within the first 28 days of the life of the embryo. Within this blog, Jon Holmlund has outlined nicely the technological advances outpacing bioethical consensus in the area of Synthetic Human Entities with Embryo-like Features (see SHEEFs Part 1 and Part 2) and Steve Phillips recently highlighted similar issues in the field of IVF (HERE) just to name a few.

So what is the number one bioethical issue on your list?

And remember, if Wesley Smith’s description of the potential energy in those future debates is accurate: You may want to bring more than a knife to the fight (verbal equivalently speaking, of course…)

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4 years ago

1. Mental Health Parity. What is mental health and how is it treated?

2. Crispr

Jon Holmlund
Jon Holmlund
4 years ago

I think that the two most pressing bioethical issues for the developed world are PAS/euthanasia (also euphemistically called “medical assistance in dying”), and the reach of the “new embryology”–encompassing, as you mention, heritable gene editing, SHEEFS, extended pluripotent stem cells, and the like.

Commissions aside, how does one get the public to “engage” in issues raised by bleeding-edge technologies?

I would add “health care reform” except I see that as more of a matter of prudence and justice, rather than ethics more broadly, and in any event I think we are on a settled albeit uneven course toward single payer health care. Consider: the argument of the future may be not so much that everyone has a right to care as that it is unethical for any care to be provided to one if it is not provided at the same cost to all. There’s an idea.