Obama disbands Bush-era bioethics group

President Obama has disbanded the President’s Council on Bioethics because the Bush-appointed group was focused more on “philosophy” and advice, and Obama wants a group that will tackle policy questions.

The NY Times reports:

Members of the President’s Council on Bioethics were told by the White House last week that their services were no longer needed and were asked to cancel a planned meeting, a council staff member said Wednesday.

The council was disbanded because it was designed by the Bush administration to be “a philosophically leaning advisory group” that favored discussion over developing a shared consensus, said Reid Cherlin, a White House press officer.

President Obama will appoint a new bioethics commission, one with a new mandate and that “offers practical policy options,” Mr. Cherlin said. …

…Bioethics commissions, mostly at the presidential level, have been in existence since 1974. Composed mostly of biologists and ethicists, they have served to familiarize the public with new advances and have developed guidance on contentious issues like genetic engineering, human cloning and research on humans.

Under Dr. Kass the council produced reports with a somewhat philosophical bent on issues like the screening of newborns and how to determine death. Several bioethicists said Wednesday that a new commission could also focus on giving more practical guidance.

“If we wish to enhance the quality of health care, we will need gobs of quality-improvement studies,” said Thomas H. Murray, president of the Hastings Center, a bioethics research organization.

Read the rest here.

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