The blog of the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues

Not too hot, not too cold …

Sometimes fairy tales help explain the most complex problems.

Dr. Amy Gutmann, president of the University of Pennsylvania and chair of the President’s Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues, today reached back to Goldilocks and the Three Bears to frame an issue before the Commission.

The Commission is listening to experts today talk about federal regulations and guidelines for clinical trials involving human subjects domestically and internationally. Several of the experts have talked about the difficulty in making sure that the subjects were protected and also that the regulations weren’t so burdensome that it would deter research – research that could end up saving lives.

“It’s like walking a tightrope,” Gutmann said. “If you err on the side of inadequate protections in rules and practices, you create really significant harm often.” But on the other hand, she said, if research is squelched by too tight controls, “you also harm people by not having the excellent medicines and treatments that can be used for people.”

That led to Goldilocks. Speaking about Goldilocks tasting the three bowls of porridge, Gutmann said, “It can’t be too hot or too cold, it has to be just right. Would it be that easy to get it just right!”

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This is a space for the members and staff of the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues to communicate with the public about the work of the commission and to discuss important issues in bioethics.

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