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In April 1976, a group of eminent scientists, ethicists,
committee and the Congress on future legislative activities. lo
We requested that this conference be convened as a follow-up to the Subcommittee hearings in the fall of
1975 on genetic engineering. Many important issues were
an informal, non-legislative setting where ideas could be
A report of the proceedings of that conference has been
Jacob K. Javits,
Edward M. Kennedy, Chairman
BIOMEDICAL RESEARCH AND THE PUBLIC
EDITED BY TABITHA M. POWLEDGE AND LESLIE Dach
A conference co-sponsored by the
INSTITUTE OF SOCIETY, ETHICS AND THE LIFE SCIENCES
Hastings-on-Hudson, New York
CASE WESTERN RESERVE UNIVERSITY
Airlie House, Warrenton, Virginia, April 1-3, 1976
This volume is the edited transcript of a conference on the relationship between biomedical research and the public. Co-sponsored by the Institute of Society, Ethics and the Life Sciences and Case Western Reserve University Medical School, the conference was made possible by a grant from the New York Foundation and took place from April 1 through 3, 1976, at Airlie House, a conference center near Warrenton, Virginia.
On October 29, 1975, two members of the Senate Subcommittee on Health, Edward M. Kennedy (D.-Mass.), chairman, and Jacob K. Javits (R.-N.Y.), ranking minority member, wrote as follows to Willard Gaylin, M.D., President of the Institute:
The recent hearings before the Subcommittee on Health of the Committee on Labor and Public Welfare suggest a growing strain in the relationship between biomedical research scientists and the general public. As legislators who have long been concerned with national health problems, and particularly the support of basic biomedical research, we find disquieting both the tone and direction of some of the current discussion about the public role in the establishment of science policy.
On one hand, it seems to be well understood on all sides that biomedical research has made and will continue to make significant contributions in satisfying the health needs of the country. On the other hand, it seems equally well understood that the public, which provides a considerable portion of all biomedical research funds, has an important role to play in the allocation of these funds and in the formation of judgments on the potential benefits of research. Yet, these understandings seem to break down in practice. There are suggestions that the scientists may not appreciate adequately the public interest and its role in decision-making; and equally that the public may not adequately understand the scientist, his disciplines and approaches to problems, and the significance of what he does for society.
There is evident and increasing need for both sides to get together to discuss and define the issues in reasonable fashion and to identify mechanisms to educate one another. More than this, it becomes increasingly important to society that the serious problems which arise at the interface between science and society be carefully identified, and that mechanisms and models be devised for the solution of these problems.
Certainly, continuation of the present misunderstandings can only lead to increased polarization between Congress and the research community. There is already evidence of such strain. Perhaps as the relationship between science and the
public has evolved and changed in recent years, all parties
We believe it might be useful if an interdisciplinary group
Both the Hastings Institute of Society, Ethics and the Life
We would very much appreciate hearing from you as to
in arranging this endeavor. The conference was thus arranged at their request. The transcript has been condensed and edited for readability, and the last session, in which only about a third of the original group participated, has been summarized.
The editors are grateful for suggestions from Daniel Callahan, Willard Gaylin, and Peter Steinfels. They also thank Eva Mannheimer for her extensive help with the manuscript at every step, and Vickie Venne for her research assistance.
TABITHA M. POWLEDGE.
LESLIE Dach, HASTINGS-ON-HUDSON, N.Y., Autumn, 1976.