It is difficult to predict the fate of bioethics in the coming years under the new President-elect Trump, states Professor Jonathan Moreno, an Advisory Board member of Global Bioethics Initiative. He is also a Professor of Medical Ethics and Health Policy, History and Sociology of Science, and of Philosophy. In 2008-09 he served as a member of President Barack Obama’s transition team.
Since the National Commission in 1974, almost every president has established a commission to explore ethical issues in science, medicine, and technology. The first public national body to shape bioethics policy in the U.S., the National Commission for the Protection of Human Subjects of Biomedical and Behavioral Research, was under the Department of Health, Education and Welfare (today the Department of Health and Human Services) until 1978.
Also, an Advisory Committee on Human Radiation Experiments was established in to investigate questions of the record of the United States government with respect to human radiation experiments. The special committee was created by President Bill Clinton’s Executive Order issued January 15, 1994.
Furthermore, President George W. Bush created, in 2001, the President’s Council on Bioethics, charged with advising the President on bioethical issues that may emerge as a consequence of advances in biomedical science and technology. Bush’s Council on Bioethics honed in particularly on stem cell research.
Now, we are left to wonder what area of biomedical advancement Trump will focus on. It may be unlikely that the president-elect would proactively form a council or commission dedicated to bioethics if that is not desperately needed. However, Moreno predicts that Trump’s conservative ideologies will conflict with particular research and development tools that promote scientific advancements, particularly those involving human reproductive material. Perhaps this will interfere with the current method of developing gametes from somatic cells, for example.
However, some other ethically ambiguous aspects of scientific advancements may continue to be deemed acceptable by Trump. For instance, gene editing might be considered acceptable under the Republican party, as these tools have been most commonly used in agriculture to date. The field of neuroscience may also be relatively safe, as Trump has vowed to help veterans. Those suffering from traumatic brain injuries, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and various other psychiatric disorders could benefit from cutting edge, perhaps somehow risky technologies.
If the president-elect does decide to form a bioethics council, that might be similar to the neoconservative bioethics advisory board under President George W. Bush’s administration. It provided a philosophical basis for the neoconservative views of the Republican party, particularly regarding stem cell research and cloning. Within the president-elect’s circle, Dr. Ben Carson seems to be the most likely candidate for leading such an endeavor. He is often referred to as a potential Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services and is a strong pro-life advocate.
While Trump may want to enforce a more conservative approach to certain aspects of scientific advancements, until he will take office, there will continue to be plenty of speculation about what will occur in the world, in the United States, and in the field of bioethics.
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