Bioethics News

How to fill the bioethics void in Trump’s presidency

This time back in 2008, the transition team of Barack Obama was running a smooth, well-oiled machine. In 2016, the transition is noisy and controversial.

Almost none of the main figures have advanced degrees of any kind, as a columnist for the New York Daily News has pointed out. Even more scandalously, no cabinet picks have gone to Harvard. True, Steve Bannon, who is to be Trump’s chief strategist, did go to Harvard Business School, but he also founded Breitbart News, thoroughly negating the Ivy League influence. And Ben Carson did go to Yale, is an accomplished neurosurgeon and has 60 honorary doctorates.

Bioethics was an integral part of Obama’s agenda, with Jonathan Moreno and R. Alta Charo, two well-known bioethicists, creating a successor to the Bush Administration’s Council on Bioethics. But the word bioethics is MIA in press releases from Trump’s transition team. Ben Carson was a member of Bush’s Council on Bioethics, but he has been appointed Secretary of Housing.

Bioethics columnist Wesley J. Smith writes in the Weekly Standard that Trump’s views in this area are unknown:

What does our new president think about these and other such morally portentous matters? Your guess is as good as mine. Based on Trump’s public pronouncements—of which there are none—it would appear that he has given little thought to bioethical matters, much less pondered the ethical principles that would illuminate administration policy-making surrounding them. That’s politically dangerous. Bioethics issues have the potential to explode suddenly into the public consciousness and grab an administration by the throat. 

Smith argues that the new President should appoint a “populist” bioethics commission to advise him on the difficult decisions:

A populist bioethics commission would be as messy as democracy, its ideologically diverse members disagreeing with each other and sometimes the administration itself.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.