Scholars, students, and educators interested in materials from U.S. National Commissions on Bioethics will find a rich resource at the Bioethics Research Library. The Library has transcripts, reports, briefing and agenda books, and related materials. The Library has provided reports and appendices for various digitization efforts so that full-text of these historic documents could be made available online. Links are provided below for those resources which can be found online.
In addition to our work with the U.S. National Commissions, the Library has spent nearly 40 years collecting government materials from dozens of Federal agencies and committees. There are also materials from national governments, state and local governments, and many non-governmental organizations (NGOs). You can access these collections both by visiting our Government and NGOs in Bioethics Collection and by searching our OneSearch Tool, that limits your search to government documents held by the BRL.
We also invite you to visit the Library to use any materials in our archives of interest to you. In order to best prepare for your visit, we ask that you contact the Library in advance so that we can be certain to have the documents you wish to use readily available. Please use our archives appointment form describe your research work, to let us know when you will visit, and to identify the specific materials you wish to review.
The Bioethics Research Library holds original documents from the earliest U.S. Presidential Commissions about bioethics as well as archived websites containing reports and transcripts from more recent Commissions. View a list of publications from 1974 to 2009 here.
- Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues, 2009-2017
- President’s Council on Bioethics, 2001-2009
- National Bioethics Advisory Commission, 1996-2001
- Advisory Committee on Human Radiation Experiments, 1994-1995
- Biomedical Ethical Advisory Committee, 1988-1990
- President’s Commission for the Study of Ethical Problems in Medicine and in Biomedical and Behavioral Research, 1978-1983
- National Commission for the Protection of Human Subjects of Biomedical and Behavioral Research, 1974-1978
Presentation on the U.S. Bioethics Commission Archives
Hakkarinen, Mark. Exploring the Bioethics Archives: Public Bioethics in the New Millennium: Creatively Communicating the work of the Presidential Bioethics Commission. American Society for Bioethics and the Humanities (ASBH) Annual Meeting. October 24, 2015. Available online: PDF with notes. PowerPoint slideshow.
The current Presidential commission on bioethics, appointed by President Obama, is no longer actively meeting. Information about that Commission may be obtained at the archived website here: https://bioethicsarchive.georgetown.edu/pcsbi/.
President’s Council on Bioethics, 2001-2009
Appointed by President George W. Bush. Web site archived at the Bioethics Research Library, https://bioethicsarchive.georgetown.edu/pcbe/.
National Bioethics Advisory Commission, 1996-2001
Appointed by President Clinton. Web site archived at the Bioethics Research Library,https://bioethicsarchive.georgetown.edu/nbac/.
A stand-alone commission making its final report in 1996 was the presidentially-appointed Advisory Committee on Human Radiation Experiments (ACHRE); its agenda books and related items can be found at the Bioethics Research Library. These materials have not yet been digitized. ACHRE’s interim and final reports were digitized and are available at https://bioethicsarchive.georgetown.edu/achre/.
The 14 initial members of this Committee were selected by the Biomedical Ethics Board, which was made up of six senators and six members of Congress. The group functioned only briefly from late 1988 to early 1989 and had two meetings before its parent group became politically deadlocked due to abortion politics, its appropriations were frozen, and finally its term expired in 1990. The BEAC did not release reports.
President’s Commission for the Study of Ethical Problems in Medicine and in Biomedical and Behavioral Research, 1978-1983
In 1978, the President’s Commission for the Study of Ethical Problems in Medicine and in Biomedical and Behavioral Research was established by Public Law 95-622. The reports of this commission and a collection of correspondence and copies of many of the transcripts of its meetings are in the Bioethics Research Library. Full-text access to reports and appendices is now available online at https://bioethicsarchive.georgetown.edu/pcbe/reports/past_commissions/.
Ethics Advisory Board (EAB), 1978-1979
This group began in 1978 under the auspices of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare. Its pronouncement on human embryo research in 1979 followed by the EAB dissolution began a 15-year moratorium on such research. Materials are held in the Bioethics Research Library’s Archive and are available upon request. An EAB finding aid is available here.
National Commission for the Protection of Human Subjects of Biomedical and Behavioral Research, 1974-1978
In the early history of bioethics, the Executive Branch’s Department of Health, Education and Welfare established the National Commission for the Protection of Human Subjects of Biomedical and Behavioral Research. Most of the transcripts and reports of this early commission are in the Bioethics Research Library. The reports are also online at https://bioethicsarchive.georgetown.edu/pcbe/reports/past_commissions/.
View the finding aid for the National Commission for the Protection of Human Subjects of Biomedical and Behavioral Research archival collection. Contents of the archival boxes have also been digitized into image sets and made available on Flickr.
View the Collection
View all U.S. Bioethics Commission Reports available on DigitalGeorgetown.
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This page last updated on July 11, 2016.