JSPAN Launches Policy Center on Bioethics

JSPAN POLICY PAPER - March, 2004 Although discussions of medical ethics can be found in Jewish writings since ancient times, recent technological advances have raised a host of questions that are of special concern to the Jewish community. From enhancing fertility to sustaining life mechanically, from decoding the human genome to integrating technology into the human body, scientific progress threatens to outpace public policy. As a result, JSPAN has initiated a Policy Center to examine current issues in bioethics and propose public policy solutions.

The Bioethics Policy Center is being co-chaired by three acknowledged experts in the field:

  • Stewart First, M.D., is a Philadelphia area physician with a long interest in medical and Jewish ethics. He is Board Certified in Obstetrics and Gynecology, a Fellow of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the former chief of the Division of Gynecology at Lankenau Hospital. Dr. First serves as Clinical Associate Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Jefferson Medical College. He served as the President and Founding member of the Lankenau Physicians Association, a founding member and first President of the Main Line Physicians Association and as a founding member and President of Main Line Medical Enterprises. Dr. First is a member of the International Fertility Society, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, the American Society for Colposcopy and Colpomicroscopy, Society of Laparoendoscopic Surgeons and the Philadelphia Obstetrical Society. He is a graduate of Gratz College, the oldest nondenominationally affiliated college of Jewish studies in the Western Hemisphere. Dr. First served as medical advisor to the Board of Mohels of the City of Philadelphia.
  • Alan Weisbard, J.D., is an Associate professor of Law, Medical Ethics and Jewish Studies at the University of Wisconsin. From 1987 until early 1990, he served as Executive Director of the New Jersey Bioethics Commission. Under his leadership, the Commission developed innovative state statutes, now enacted, on the determination of death and advance directives for health care, and formulated policy proposals on institutional ethics committees and on new reproductive practices, with a particular focus on surrogacy. Professor Weisbard has published numerous articles in legal, medical, and philosophical journals. His scholarship has addressed such issues as informed consent, the withdrawal of life-sustaining therapies, the definition of death, treatment of imperiled newborns, organ transplantation, the role of hospital ethics committees, the human genome initiative, the appropriate uses of genetically-engineered human growth hormone, compensation for medical and research injuries, the role of philosophy and philosophers in the public policy process, the contributions and pitfalls of public ethics commissions, and the moral lessons of the Holocaust for contemporary bioethics.
  • Paul Root Wolpe, Ph.D., is a professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania, where he also holds appointments in the Department of Medical Ethics and the Department of Sociology. He is a Senior Fellow of Penn's Center for Bioethics, is the Director of the Program in Psychiatry and Ethics at the School of Medicine, and is a Senior Fellow of the Leonard Davis Institute for Health Economics. Dr. Wolpe also serves as the Chief of Bioethics for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). He is the author of numerous articles on bioethical issues. His research examines the role of ideology and culture in medical thought, encompassing such diverse fields as genetics and reproduction; neuroethics and the integration of biotechnology into the human body; mental health and illness; human subjects research; religion and its role in bioethical debate, and death and dying. Dr. Wolpe sits on the national boards of organizations such as the American Society of Bioethics and Humanities and the National Embryo Donation Advisory Board of RESOLVE. Dr. Wolpe is the Associate Editor of the American Journal of Bioethics. He is the first National Bioethics Advisor for the Planned Parenthood Federation of America and serves as a bioethics advisor to private industry and to governmental agencies such as the Philadelphia Department of Human Services, Children and Youth Division and the Pennsylvania State Ethics Advisory Board to the Office of the Secretary of Health.

JSPAN members who have an interest in serving on the Bioethics Policy Center or who have ideas for the Bioethics Policy Center to consider should send an email to jspan@jspan.org.