Presidential Bioethical Commission meets at Penn

President Gutmann

Steven Minicola

Penn President Amy Gutmann leads the 14th public meeting of the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues, held Aug. 19-20 at Penn's Smilow Center for Translational Research. Gutmann is chair of the Commission.

The Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues held deliberations on ethics and neuroscience during its 14th public meeting from Aug. 19-20 at the Perelman School of Medicine’s Smilow Center for Translational Research. The Commission is chaired by University of Pennsylvania President Amy GutmannAnita Allen, Vice Provost for Faculty at Penn and the Henry R. Silverman Professor of Law and Professor of Philosophy at Penn Law School, also serves on the Commission.

On Monday, Aug. 19, the Commission heard from several experts to conclude its deliberations on the ethical implications of incidental findings, which are data gleaned from medical procedures or laboratory tests that were beyond the original 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. The Commission expects to issue its final report on incidental findings by the end of the year.

The Commission’s second day of meetings focused on ethics and neuroscience as charged by President Obama as part of the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies, or BRAIN, Initiative

“President Obama has asked us to take a careful look at ethical issues associated with neuroscience research and the potential applications of the results of that research,” said Gutmann at the onset of the deliberations. “Our charge is a broad one, and we’ll need to scope it carefully so that we can craft an excellent, well-reasoned response to the President in a timely manner."

The Commission heard from a number of experts in neuroscience and ethics, including Anjan Chatterjee, a professor of neurology at the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience and Center for Functional Neuroimaging in the Perelman School of Medicine. 

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, health care delivery, and technological innovation are conducted in a socially and ethically responsible manner. 

Originally published on August 20, 2013