Presidential Bioethics Commission to meet at Penn

Penn President Amy Gutmann

Penn President Amy Gutmann

The Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues, chaired by University of Pennsylvania President Amy Gutmann, will meet publicly on Penn’s campus Aug. 19-20. 

On Aug. 19 from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., the Commission will conclude its deliberations on the ethical implications of incidental findings. 

Incidental findings are data gleaned from medical procedures or laboratory tests that were beyond the aims or goals of the particular laboratory test or medical procedure. Such findings raise serious ethical questions in fields such as neurology and genetics, as well as in clinical and research settings. How incidental findings are handled has the potential to affect research participants, patients, consumers, and health care professionals. The Commission expects to issue its final report on incidental findings by the end of the year.

Penn Law Professor and Vice Provost for Faculty Anita Allen is also a member of the Commission.

On Aug. 20 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., the Commission will begin deliberations on ethics and neuroscience as charged by President Obama as part of the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies, or BRAIN, Initiative. The role of the Commission will be to ensure that scientific approaches to neuroscience research hold to sound ethical principles and practices.

The Commission meeting will be held at the Perelman School of Medicine’s Smilow Center for Translational Research and is free and open to the public on a first-come, first-served basis. It will also be live-streamed and archived at

Gutmann, a prominent political scientist, has served as chair of the Commission since being appointed by President Obama in 2009. The Commission’s goal is to identify and promote policies and practices that ensure scientific research, healthcare delivery, and technological innovation are conducted in a socially and ethically responsible manner. 

Originally published on August 7, 2013