News Release: Religion and Ethics, University News

Nov. 12,  2010

Presidential Commission on Bioethics to Meet at Emory

The Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues will hold its third two-day meeting of the year, and the final meeting before issuing its recommendations on the rapidly accelerating field of synthetic biology, at Emory University on Nov.16-17. Emory President James W. Wagner serves as vice chair of the Commission, which is headed by University of Pennsylvania President Amy Gutmann.

“It will be a privilege for us at Emory to welcome colleagues and commission members from across the country for two days of study and discussion,” said Wagner. “Ethical engagement with human issues arising at the frontiers of science is one of Emory’s core commitments as an academic community.

“Beyond our own campus, “ he continued, “Atlanta is rich in distinguished colleges and universities as well as associated institutions like the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, The Carter Center, the American Cancer Society, and many other agencies and groups. We look for a good turnout from interested members of the public as well as teachers, students and practitioners in fields that touch on synthetic biology.”

The commission’s meeting in Atlanta will be held at the Emory Conference Center Hotel, located on the Emory University campus at 1615 Clifton Road. Meetings are free and open to the public. They are also webcast live and are made accessible in the archives of the commission’s website (

Tom Murray, president of the Hastings Center, will address the commission on emerging technologies in its Tuesday afternoon session, while Hugh Whittall, executive director of the London-based Nuffield Council on Bioethics, will add an international dimension Wednesday morning with a presentation on “Medical profiling and online medicine: The ethics of 'personalised healthcare’ in a consumer age”.

Background on the Commission

The 13-member group was appointed by President Barack Obama to advise him on bioethical issues that may emerge from advances in biomedicine and related areas of science and technology. The Commission is charged with identifying and promoting policies and practices that ensure scientific research, health care delivery, and technological innovation are conducted in an ethically responsible manner.

According to a notice in the Federal Register, at its Atlanta meeting the Commission will develop and finalize recommendations concerning any actions that the Federal Government should take to ensure that America reaps the benefits of synthetic biology while identifying appropriate ethical boundaries and minimizing risks. It will also identify suggestions for future study, if any.

Individuals who would like to provide public comment at the meeting should notify Judy Crawford at 202-233-3960, or

Anyone planning to attend the meeting who needs special assistance, such as sign language interpretation or other reasonable accommodations, should also notify Judy Crawford in advance of the meeting. The Commission will make every effort to accommodate persons who need special assistance.

Written comments can be emailed to, or sent to Public Commentary, The Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues, 1425 New York Ave. NW, Suite C–100, Washington, D.C. 20005.

Originally posted Nov. 5, 2010


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