The issue of how to protect children in the event of a terrorist attack or other large-scale disaster has received some coverage in the media. But rarely discussed is a full airing of the ethical issues around such protection.
Dr. Amy Gutmann, President of the University of Pennsylvania and Chair of the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues, opened the Commission’s meeting Thursday in Washington to define the parameters of the discussion.
The National Biodefense Science Board, she noted, has recommend that US Health and Human Services “move forward with such a study before a public health emergency occurs,” Gutmann said. “It also recommended that such testing occur only after the ethical considerations are adequately addressed and reviewed. That is what we are going to do – carefully and transparently review the ethical considerations surrounding the development of medical countermeasures for children. “
Gutmann talked about the Commission’s past studies involving human subjects’ research, but she said this inquiry was more specific: clinical trials of medical countermeasures with children.
“It is important that we are clear about the scope of our charge upfront,” she said. “We are not reviewing the ethics of vaccine research and use. Rather, our charge is to focus on medical countermeasures, and the special considerations that arise in testing them for pediatric use. Of course, some vaccines are also medical countermeasures, but so are other products, like antibiotics and antivirals. I want to be sure we keep this in mind throughout our deliberations.”
Among the speakers to appear before the Commission today: HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and John S. Parker, M.D., Chair of the National Biodefense Science Board.