President George W. Bush's has replaced 66-year-old Leon Kass with Edmund Pellegrino, an 85-year-old physician and bioethicist at Georgetown University, as chair of the President's Bioethics Council.
The Council has been very controversial under Kass' leadership, especially in its recommendations with respect to cloning of human embryos for research. Science quotes Daniel Perry, head of the Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research in Washington, D.C.: "I wouldn't be surprised if the council recedes into the background from now on; Pellegrino is not the lightning rod that Leon was."
Science further notes:
"The Jesuit-trained Pellegrino is universally applauded for his scholarship. 'There isn't an award that he hasn't been awarded,' says Baruch Brody of Baylor University in Waco, Texas, including from groups that differ with him on matters such as abortion and when to withdraw treatment for the terminally ill. He's also held many administrative posts, including a 4-year stint as president of Catholic University in Washington, D.C.
"Although Pellegrino declined comment, his writings appear to place him in the same camp as Kass in opposing research cloning--what scientists prefer to call somatic cell nuclear transfer--and other technologies promising to 'enhance' humans."
Readers of this blog may be interested to know that Dr. Pelegrino has been involved in the UNESCO's effort to develop a Declaration on Universal Norms on Bioethics. He was a final member of the International Bioethics Committee (IBC) "Drafting Group" for the Declaration, apparently joining the group between the first and second of its six meetings.
Two "Intergovernmental Meetings of Experts" finalized the draft Declaration, completing that work in June, 2005. The U.S. Delegation for the meetings was lead by Ambassador Louise Oliver, and consisted primarily of State Department officials. The other members of the U.S. Delegation were: Carter Snead, General Counsel of the President's Council on Bioethics; James Kelly of The Federalist Society; and Nigel Cameron, Associate Dean at the Chicago Kent College of Law. Cameron, according to the Heritage Foundation, has also served as president of the Institute on Biotechnology and the Human Future. He also is Dean of the Wilberforce Forum, a Christian worldview think tank in Washington, DC, founded by Charles W. Colson.
The Declaration is to be submitted to the General Conference of UNESCO in October for approval.