Healthcare, Bioethics & Aging Policy Center

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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.

In the area of Aging, JSPAN is committed to the advancement of public policy that combats ageism and improves the lives of older adults by fostering their ability to live healthy, engaged lives; protecting their civil rights; and maximizing the quality of their lives and ability to enjoy independence.  The JSPAN Policy Center on Aging analyzes legislation and government policy in six key areas:  work, retirement, health, community development, legal issues, and services.   Below is a sampling of topics in each of those areas. 


  • Older workers and unemployed
  • Encore careers


  • Economic  security
  • Phased retirement
  • Civic engagement

Health (in conjunction with Policy Center on Bioethics)

  • Medicare and Supplemental Health Insurance
  • Medicaid
  • Long-Term Care
  • Caregiving
  • End-of-Life issues

Community Development

  • Aging in place
  • Building age-friendly communities
  • Creating intergenerational programs

Legal Issues

  • Voting
  • Civil Rights
  • Discrimination
  • Protection from Fraud and Abuse


  • Access to quality transportation
  • Disability services
  • Safety and Security
  • Affordable and accessible housing
  • Nutrition             
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The JSPAN liaisons to the Healthcare and Bioethics Policy Center are JSPAN members Dr. Sanford Schwartz and Dr. Richard Malkin. The Healthcare and Bioethics Policy Center is being advised by several acknowledged experts in the field:

  • Arthur L. Caplan. Ph.D., is the Emanuel and Robert Hart Professor of Biothethics and Philosophy at the University of Pennsylvania.  He is the Chair of the Department of Medical Ethics and the Director of the Center for Bioethics.  His research interests include transplantation research ethics, genetics, reproductive technologies, health policy and general bioethics.  He has been published extensively and has received numerous awards including the McGovern Medal of the American Medical Writers Association and the Franklin Award from the City of Philadelphia.  He has also been honored as one of the fifty most influential people in American health care by Modern Health Care magazine, one of the ten most influential people in America in biotechnology by the National Journal, one of the ten most influential people in the ethics of biotechnology by the editors of Nature Biotechnology.
  • David Grande MD, MPA, is an Assistant Professor of Medicine at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.  In addition to being on the medical staff at both Penn Presbyterian Medical Center and the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Grande is a Senior Fellow at the Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics at the University of Pennsylvania.  He fields of research expertise include Health Policy, Medical Professionalism, Influences of Marketing, Vulnerable Populations and Health Care Access, and Urban Health.
  • Cheryl Bettigole, MD, MPH, is a family physician and the clinical director of a public health clinic in Philadelphia.  Her areas of interest include chronic disease management and health care for immigrants.  She received her Masters of Public Health from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health where she received the Capstone Award for her work on evaluating the impact of interpretation services for patients of limited English proficiency.
  • 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.

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The Jewish Social Policy Action Network recently combined  its policy centers on Bioethics and Healthcare. We are inviting our members and supporters to get involved! Working groups are being set up to make recommendations regarding positions we ought to be taking on the following issues: 1) Management of End-of-Life Medical Decisions and 2) Impact of Federal Health Care Reform. The members of these subcommittees would communicate with each other initially by e-mail and telephone, with a view toward meeting thereafter on occasion in the Philadelphia area. If you would like to get involved on these vital issues, please send an e-mail to Be sure to include your contact information, such as your residential or business mailing address, phone numbers. If you have any relevant professional or personal background on these issues, please let us know. We look forward to your involvement!

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