Aug. 16, 2001
Vol. 20 No. 20

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    President Bush appoints Kass to bioethics council

    By William Harms
    News Office

    Leon Kass, the Addie Clark Harding Professor on the Committee on Social Thought
    Leon Kass, the Addie Clark Harding Professor on the Committee on Social Thought, has been named by President Bush to lead a president’s council on bioethics.

    During a presidential address Thursday, Aug. 9, Bush said the council’s tasks will be “to monitor stem cell research, to recommend appropriate guidelines and regulations and to consider all of the medical and ethical ramifications of biomedical innovations.”

    The council will consist of leading scientists, doctors, ethicists, theologians and others. “This council will keep us apprised of new developments and give our nation a forum to continue to discuss and evaluate these important issues,” said Bush.

    In his speech, Bush called Kass “a leading biomedical ethicist.” Kass, a 1954 graduate of the Laboratory Schools, was educated at the University, where he earned his S.B. in 1958 and an M.D. in 1962. He continued his studies at Harvard University, where he received a Ph.D. in biochemistry in 1967.

    He then conducted research in molecular biology at the National Institutes of Health while serving in the United States Public Health Service. Shifting directions from doing science to thinking about its human meaning, he has been engaged for more than 30 years with ethical and philosophical issues raised by biomedical advance, and, more recently, with broader moral and cultural issues.

    From 1970 to 1972, Kass served as Executive Secretary of the Committee on the Life Sciences and Social Policy of the National Research Council/National Academy of Sciences, whose report, Assessing Biomedical Technologies, provided one of the first overviews of the emerging moral and social questions posed by biomedical advance.

    He taught at St. John’s College, Annapolis, Md., and served as the Joseph P. Kennedy Sr., Research Professor in Bioethics at the Kennedy Institute of Ethics at Georgetown University, before joining the University faculty in 1976.

    He is a Founding Fellow (and for 26 years a board member) of the Hastings Center, the nation’s first bioethics research center; a Senior Fellow of the MacLean Center for Clinical Medical Ethics; and a Senior Fellow and Associate Director of the John M. Olin Center for Inquiry into the Theory and Practice of Democracy. He also has been a member of the National Council on the Humanities of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

    His numerous articles and books include: Toward a More Natural Science: Biology and Human Affairs; The Hungry Soul: Eating and the Perfecting of Our Nature; The Ethics of Human Cloning (with James Q. Wilson); and Wing to Wing, Oar to Oar: Readings on Courting and Marrying (with Amy Kass). His widely reprinted essays in biomedical ethics have dealt with issues raised by in vitro fertilization, cloning, genetic screening and genetic technology, organ transplantation, aging research, euthanasia and assisted suicide, and the moral nature of the medical profession.

    His first article on cloning, “Making Babies: The New Biology and the ‘Old’ Morality” was published in 1972 in The Public Interest; and his most recent, “Preventing a Brave New World: Why We Must Ban Human Cloning Now,” appeared in the May 21, 2001, issue of The New Republic