its products met high standards of intellectual rigor, and the papers it commissioned from major scholarly figures catalyzed the study of bioethics as noted scholars became actively involved in addressing these issues.
The statute establishing the National Commission suggested that, at the conclusion of its term, a standing National Council for the Protection of Human Subjects would be established to carry its work forward. Instead, in 1978 the Congress authorized the President's Commission for the Study of Ethical Problems in Medicine and Biomedical and Behavioral Research (President's Commission), thereby combining Senator Kennedy's interest in elevating the National Commission above the departmental level with the desire of Representative Paul Rogers and his colleagues on the House Health Subcommittee that the successor body take on topics beyond research with human subjects (P.L. 95-622). In addition to requiring biennial reports on the latter topic, Congress mandated that the President's Commission also report on the ethical and legal aspects of determining death, informed consent, confidentiality and privacy, genetic issues, and disparities in access to health care.
While the National Commission had been quickly appointed, the President's Commission was not sworn in for 14 months after the passage of its authorizing statute. Like the National Commission, membership in the President's Commission was divided into several categories: three from biomedical or behavioral research (initially a professor of human genetics, a professor of psychiatry, and a molecular biologist), three from the practice of medicine (a general internist, a cardiologist, and a pediatrician), and five from other fields (a medical economist, a medical sociologist, a professor of law, a professor of ethics, and a lawyer who was appointed by the president to chair the commission). Two commissioners (the professors of ethics and law) had served on the National Commission, although one had to resign almost immediately when she was appointed to a high position in the federal government. Two other commissioners resigned later, and seven others were replaced as their terms expired, so that 21 people in total served on the President's Commission. The staff usually numbered about 20 (including 6 in support positions), but several of the professional staff (a total of 23 individuals over the life of the commission) served for only a year while on leave from academic positions. Additionally, 16 students (primarily from medicine, law, and philosophy) served as Congressional Fellows and interns.
Part of the delay in appointing the original commissioners apparently resulted from political friction between the White House and Congress. The executive branch was slow to choose the commissioners, and even