U.S. Bioethics Commissions

commissionsScholars, 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.

We invite you to visit the Library to use any materials 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 email bioethics@georgetown.edu or call 202-687-3885 to 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.

Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues

The current Presidential commission on bioethics, appointed by President Obama, is actively meeting. Information about that Commission may be obtained at http://www.bioethics.gov.

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/.

Advisory Committee on Human Radiation Experiments, 1994-1995

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 http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/radiation/.

Biomedical Ethical Advisory Committee, 1988-1990

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/.

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. Full-text access to reports and appendices is now available via the Office for Human Research Protections (OHRP) website of archived materials. Additionally, 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.

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