Reflections on Public Bioethics: A View from the Trenches

Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal 15 (3): 221-250, 2005.


For many reasons, and more than its predecessors, the President’s Council on Bioethics has been the subject of much public attention and heated controversy. But little of that attention and controversy has been informed by knowledge of the Council’s mission, its ways of working, and, most importantly, its actual work. This essay describes the Council’s mission, discusses its public ways of working, and reviews the five major works produced during the Council’s first term. In all its activities, the Council has sought to develop a richer bioethics, one that recognizes and tries to do justice to the deep issues of our humanity raised by the age of biotechnology. Believing that these issues are properly matters to be discussed and governed by the polity as a whole, the Council also has sought to contribute to a genuinely public or political bioethics, beyond the rule of “experts,” scientific and bioethical.

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