Ethics and Public Policy Program
Program Leader: Michael J. Sandel, D.Phil.
The goal of the Program in Ethics and Public Policy is to foster interdisciplinary education and public discussion of the ethical and policy implications of the advancing field of stem cell research. The program accomplishes this through courses, seminars, meetings, conferences and publications that include HSCI faculty as well as experts from around the world. Some examples include:
Faculty and student education
In 2005, HSCI teamed up with the Harvard Humanities Center to create the "Between Two Cultures" interfaculty seminar to host discussions between scientists and humanists on the ethical, social, political and philosophical implications of stem cell science. To read about the first seminar in the "Between Two Cultures" series, click here. The list of speakers and topics for the 2007-2008 academic year includes: Eric Kandel (host Steve Hyman), In Search of Memory, The Emergence of a New Science of Mind; Raymond Kurzweil (host Barbara Grosz), The Singularity is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology; K. Anthony Appiah and Marc David Hauser (host Evelynn Hammonds), Can empirical science shed light on ethics?; Edward O. Wilson (host Michael Sandel), Science and religion, and; Sherry Turkle (host Homi Bhabha), Cyberintimacies/Cybersolitudes.
In the spring of 2006, Doug Melton, Scientific Co-Director of HSCI, and Michael Sandel, HSCI's Ethics and Public Policy Program Leader, taught an undergraduate course titled "Ethics, Biotechnology, and the Future of Human Nature," which probed challenging questions at the intersection of science and ethics. To read about the course, click here.
Conferences and events
This summer HSCI collaborated with the Department of Bioethics at the Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) School of Medicine in Cleveland to offer an intensive seminar on on ethical and policy issues on the Harvard University campus. Led by multidisciplinary faculty from HSCI, CWRU School of Medicine, Harvard University, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the week-long program addressed the major issues in the science, ethics, and policies of stem cell research.
Partnering with Harvard Law School's Petrie-Flom Center for Health Law Policy, Biotechnology and Bioethics, HSCI co-sponsored a November, 2007 book discussion on Stem Cell Century: Law and Policy for a Breakthrough Technology. Moderated by Brock Reeve, HSCI Executive Director, the event featured remarks by the book's author, Russell Korobkin, Professor of Law at UCLA and Visiting Professor at Harvard Law School. Discussants included HSCI's Kevin Eggan; Frances Kamm, Professor of Philosophy at Harvard and Littauer Professor of Philosophy and Public Policy at the Kennedy School of Government, and; Pamela Samuelson, Professor of Law and Information at UC Berkeley and Visiting Professor of Law at Harvard Law School. C-Span BookTV covered the session for national broadcast.
This winter, the HSCI Program in Ethics and Public Policy will host an event title "Pegasus, the Chimera, and the Golden Bridle: Ethical Confrontations on the Road to Translational Stem Cell Research," which will address the relationships between research communities and the ESCROs. For more information about this event, click here.
HSCI is establishing collaborations with existing programs in ethics and health care policy in Harvard's schools of law, medicine, and government through participating in events such as the University Program in Ethics & Health's inaugural event, "Population-Level Bioethics: Mapping A New Agenda" and the Harvard Alumni Association's "Interactive Videoconference on Bioethics."
This spring, the HSCI Program in Ethics and Public Policy collaborated with the Harvard Law School's Petrie-Flom Center for Health Law Policy, Biotechnology, and Bioethics on a two-day conference, titled, "Re-Engineering Human Biology: What Should Be the Ethical and Legal Limits?" The conference covered the legal, policy, and ethical issues surrounding biotechnology. HSCI also held a Public Forum title "Religious Perspectives on Stem Cell Research" at Harvard Divinity School. At this event, a panel of guests representing three of the world's major religions discussed the beginnings of human life, the disposal of surplus embryos from in vitro fertilization clinics, and the conduct of embryonic stem cell research.
In the fall of 2006, HSCI and MGH co-sponsored The Stem Cell Leadership Summit, which included past and current members of the President's Council on Bioethics in a panel discussion entitled, "Stem Cells: Ethical and Public Policy Perspectives". A law, ethics and public policy poster forum will be featured at The Stem Cell Summit on October 2, 2007 at the Hynes Convention Center.
Science and policy discussions
HSCI encourages scientists to examine the ethical implications of stem cell research and other areas of biology and genetics by supporting the Children's Hospital Boston, Massachusetts General Hospital, and Brigham & Women's Hospital Brown Bag Lunch Ethics series for scientists. These monthly meetings provide investigators with the opportunity to freely debate the ethical questions emerging from their scientific disciplines.
Members of the Ethics and Policy program are actively engaged in discussions with domestic and foreign leaders on the issues related to stem cell policy and regulation. For an overview of a recent meeting with members of the Health and Care Services Committee of the Norwegian Parliament, click here.
Leaders at Partners HealthCare System recently published an article titled "Establishing Institutional Oversight for Human Embryonic Stem Cell Research: Creating an ESCRO Committee." This article, which discusses how to launch and maintain an institutional oversight mechanism for hESC research, continues this important discussion for HSCI and the larger hESC research community. (Reproduced with permission from Medical Research Law & Policy Report, Vol. 6, No. 15 (Aug. 1, 2007) pp. 416-423. Copyright 2007 by The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. (800-372-1033) http://www.bna.com)
Program leaders also participate in the national and global debate of ethics in stem cell research by publishing articles in both general audience magazines and scientific journals. To read such an article, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, click here.
Michael Sandel, HSCI's Ethics and Public Policy Program Leader, published an essay in the Boston Globe titled "Embryo Ethics," which is adapted from the Stem Cell chapter in his recent book The Case against Perfection.