President Bush’s Bioethics Council Chairman to Vacate Top Post

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Sep 9, 2005   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

President Bush’s Bioethics Council Chairman to Vacate Top Post Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
September 9, 2005

Washington, DC ( — A medical ethicist who drew a line in the sand against all forms of human cloning will be stepping down next month as the head of President Bush’s Council on Bioethics. Leon Kass, of the University of Chicago, was named to the post four years ago when President Bush put limits on taxpayer funding of embryonic stem cell research in place.

Kass will continue to serve on the council, though he will vacate his position as the helmsman of the panel, which features doctors, ethicists, researchers and religious scholars.

The 18-member committee has confronted numerous contentious issues including human cloning, embryonic stem cell research and the creation of animal-human hybrids.

Bioethics Council spokeswoman Diane Gianelli told the Washington Post that Kass "loved the job" but did not want to spend the inordinate amount of time it took to lead the council and represent it in public.

In a statement, Kass said he is "deeply grateful to President Bush for the privilege of chairing his bioethics council during these challenging times."

Meanwhile, the White House told the Post that it has selected Edmund Pellegrino, a former Georgetown University Medical Center professor and former president of Catholic University, to chair the panel. Not currently a member of the bioethics council, he will join it in October.

Kass drew criticism during his tenure for his opposition to reproductive technologies that involved the destruction of human life. He also came under fire in February 2004 when he replaced two members of the bioethics council who favored unproven embryonic stem cell research.

Kass is finishing his work as the chairman by completing a report on the council’s latest project, a look at end-of-life care.

Quotes from Leon Kass during his President’s Bioethics Council chairmanship:

* Discussing stem cell programming, a possible embryonic stem cell research alternative: "I think that’s where the gold is buried," he said, calling it the "most exciting new development" in stem cell research. "If this pans out scientifically, it will be a major step forward. It may provide an opportunity to get through the political impasse."

* Responding to criticism about removing two members from the panel: "Even before the President’s Council on Bioethics had its first meeting in January 2002, charges were flying that the council was stacked with political and religious conservatives, appointed to rubber-stamp the president’s moral and political views. One newspaper story on the day of our first meeting even went so far as to compare us to the Taliban."

Related web sites:
President’s Council on Bioethics –