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Obama Appoints Top Officials to New Bioethics Commission
Nancy Frazier O'Brien
Source: Catholic News Service
Published: Monday, November 30, 2009
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WASHINGTON (CNS)—President Barack Obama has established a new Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues and named two university presidents as its top officials.

The commission is the successor to the President's Council on Bioethics created by President George W. Bush in 2001 and dissolved by Obama's executive order in June.

Obama named Amy Gutmann, a political scientist who has served as president of the University of Pennsylvania since 2004, to chair the commission and James W. Wagner, an engineer who has been president of Emory University in Atlanta since 2003, as vice chairman.

The commission will be made up of "not more than 13 members appointed by the president, drawn from the fields of bioethics, science, medicine, technology, engineering, law, philosophy, theology, or other areas of the humanities or social sciences," according to the Nov. 24 executive order creating the panel.

The White House did not indicate when Obama would appoint other commission members.
Members are to serve for two-year terms and be eligible for reappointment.

Among the issues to be examined by the commission are "the creation of stem cells by novel means; intellectual property issues involving genetic sequencing, biomarkers and other screening tests used for risk assessment; and the application of neuro- and robotic sciences," in addition to broader issues such as "the protection of human research participants; scientific integrity and conflicts of interest in research; and the intersection of science and human rights," the executive order said.

In a statement released by the White House with the executive order, Obama said the commission "will develop its recommendations through practical and policy-related analyses."

"As our nation invests in science and innovation and pursues advances in biomedical research and health care, it's imperative that we do so in a responsible manner," the president said. "I am confident that Amy and Jim will use their decades of experience in both ethics and science to guide the new commission in this work, and I look forward to listening to their recommendations in the coming months and years."

Gutmann, who also serves as a professor of political science at the University of Pennsylvania, previously served as provost of Princeton University, where she was founding director of the multidisciplinary University Center for Human Values.

Gutmann, who is Jewish, earned a bachelor's degree magna cum laude from Harvard-Radcliffe College, a master's degree in political science from the London School of Economics and a doctorate in political science from Harvard University.

At Emory, Wagner "has championed the role in ethics in the mission of the university by significantly enhancing the prominence of Emory's universitywide Center for Ethics," the White House announcement said. Previously, he served as provost, university vice president, interim president and professor of materials science at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.

An elder in the Presbyterian Church, Wagner holds a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering from the University of Delaware, a master's in clinical engineering from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore and a doctorate in materials science and engineering from Johns Hopkins.

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