The Bioethics Commission staff offered the students three sessions designed to provide insight into different aspects of bioethics: science, law, and philosophy.
Executive Director, Lisa M. Lee, Ph.D., M.S., Research Analyst Misti Ault Anderson, M.S., M.A., and Research Associate Olivia Nevitt, M.P.H., led the first session on science. Bioethics Commission intern Ruquyyah Abdul-Karim also joined the discussion. During this session students heard background about the Bioethics Commission, its members, staff, and the process of deliberative democracy it uses to develop its recommendations for the President and the Administration. Advances in biomedicine and related areas of science and technology can create a range of ethical dilemmas. The students learned that the Bioethics Commission, a federal advisory committee, seeks to identify and promote policies and practices that ensure that scientific research, health care delivery, and technological innovation are conducted by the U.S. in a socially and ethically responsible manner.
Associate Directors, Michelle Groman, J.D., and Kayte Spector-Bagdady, J.D., M. Bioethics, led the law discussion. The students came well prepared with many questions, including several that focused on emerging technologies. The discussion highlighted that the law alone cannot ensure that emerging technologies such as synthetic biology and whole genome sequencing be conducted ethically. Ethical conduct is also dependent on other things including responsible codes of conduct within industry and professional organizations, sound research design and good education.
Senior Policy and Research Analyst Karen Meagher, Ph.D., and Research Associate Michelle Spektor, B.S., led the final discussion on philosophy. One topic brought up by the students was the issue of unequal distribution of the benefits from technological advances. Another pointed out that various countries have differing approaches to such challenges based on their different cultural world views.
The Bioethics Commission staff was pleased to meet the students of Hunter College High School, and was impressed with the quality of the questions asked. In several of its reports the Bioethics Commission has stressed the importance of expanding ethics discourse and education. That certainly includes fostering curiosity in today’s high school students and encouraging them to study bioethics.