Obama Plans to Replace Bush's Bioethics Panel

                Obama Plans to Replace Bush's Bioethics Panel

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     The council was disbanded because it was designed by the Bush administration to be "a philosophically leaning advisory group" that favored discussion over developing a shared consensus, said Reid Cherlin, a White House press officer.

       President Obama <> will appoint a new bioethics commission, one with a new mandate and that "offers practical policy options," Mr. Cherlin said.

     The council was appointed by President George W. Bush <> in November 2001, in the wake of his decision to let government-financed scientists begin research with human stem cells <>, but only with existing cell cultures.

   Mr. Bush's council was first led by Leon Kass of the University of Chicago <> and, since 2005, by Edmund Pellegrino of Georgetown University <>.

  Under Dr. Kass in particular, the council was sometimes accused of being more ideological than its predecessors, but several bioethicists said that was not entirely fair.

      "The other view is that all presidential commissions are structured in the context of a particular administration," said Dr. Ruth Faden, a bioethicist at John Hopkins University.

      Bioethics commissions, mostly at the presidential level, have been in existence since 1974. Composed mostly of biologists and ethicists, they have served to familiarize the public with new advances and have developed guidance on contentious issues like genetic engineering, human cloning and research on humans.

Under Dr. Kass the council produced reports with a somewhat philosophical bent on issues like the screening of newborns and how to determine death. Several bioethicists said Wednesday that a new commission could also focus on giving more practical guidance.

       "If we wish to enhance the quality of health care, we will need gobs of quality-improvement studies," said Thomas H. Murray, president of the Hastings Center, a bioethics research organization.

       Dr. Alta Charo, an ethicist at the University of Wisconsin <>, said that much of the Bush council's work "seemed more like a public debating society" and that a new commission should focus on helping the government form ethically defensible policy.