Saturday, 27 June 2009

Obama Sacks Bioethicists From Bush Years

Wants More Policy, Less Philosophy

WASHINGTON, D.C., JUNE 25, 2009 ( U.S. President Barack Obama gave an early termination notice to bioethicists picked by his predecessor for an advisory board.

According to a New York Times report from last week, Obama wants the committee to focus more on "practical policy," rather than discussion of issues.

He thus ended the bioethicists' terms a few months early (they were originally to serve in the position until September), and will appoint new members to the board.

According to ethicist E. Christian Brugger, the "push to get practical in bioethical discourse is a bad sign."

Writing for the Culture of Life Foundation, Brugger said this shift "signals a turn away from urgent questions such as whether human embryos deserve full moral respect or whether 'human dignity' means that all persons, even the disabled and dying, possess equal value."

"It turns discourse from the question of 'should' to the question of 'how,'" he lamented.

Brugger contended that the chief virtue of the Bush appointees was "a willingness and ability to formulate and struggle with ethical questions."

He noted that their conclusions sometimes differed from the Catholic view, but that "the commission in general took seriously the kind of people we become as a result of asking the questions. It knew that scientific advancement doesn’t always translate into good moral options."

Bush appointed the council in 2001. U.S. presidents since Jimmy Carter have had a bioethics advisory council, but their leanings depend on the personal outlooks of the president.

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