Deliberation about ethical issues arising from developments in biomedicine also takes place at several research and educational centers throughout the world devoted specifically to the study of ethics. Ethics centers such as the Hastings Center and the Kennedy Institute of Ethics influence policy development in the area of ethics through conferences, publications, and educational programs. In addition, experts in ethics from these centers are frequently called upon to serve on the boards of academic institutions, research centers, professional societies, and nonprofit organizations, as well as journal editorial boards. The Clinton administration's task force on health care reform provides a recent example of a public policy activity in which experts in ethics were called upon to participate in national bioethics deliberation. Together, hundreds of bioethics organizations around the world comprise a remarkable resource for policy-making, analysis, consultation, and education in medicine and the life sciences.

Religious bodies, including interfaith and ecumenical bodies, have also examined the import for religion of developments in biomedicine. In recent years, North American religious groups have produced some carefully researched reports on ethical issues in biomedicine; the Presbyterian Church's report on values and choices in health care is one example. Professorships in religious ethics have been established at several universities and a number of centers have been created for the study of religious ethics. The sheer number of individuals and groups now working on these issues offers some encouragement that useful modes of discourse may be developed, and that a variety of religious perspectives will be a constructive part of public deliberation on the ethical consequences of advances in biomedicine.

Individual and Community Responses

Individuals, groups, and communities are often spurred to action in the wake of changes brought about by developments in biomedicine. Their efforts often begin as loosely structured, grassroots organizations. These organizations frequently come into being as a result of a perceived crisis over abortion, over concerns about justice in clinical trials-as did the National Abortion Rights Action League, the National Right to Life Committee, and the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT-UP). Grassroots organizations often inspire the loyal support of individuals who have little else in common other than their interest in resolving the crisis. The broad based citizen-sponsored forums on health care that have taken place in recent years in Vermont, Maine, California, and Oregon provide additional examples of community-based bioethics deliberation. The work of grassroots bioethics organizations has had a particularly significant impact

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement