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Diversity and Deliberation: Bioethics Commissions and Moral Reasoning
Journal of Religious Ethics (2006)
  • M. Cathleen Kaveny, Boston College Law School

This article considers the sort of diversity in perspective appropriate for a presidential commission on bioethics, and by implication, high-level governmental commissions on ethics more generally. It takes as its point of comparison the respective reports on human cloning produced by the National Bioethics Advisory Commission, appointed by President Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush's President's Council on Bioethics, under the leadership of its original chair, Leon Kass. I argue that the Clinton Commission Report exemplifies forensic diversity (the type of diversity between contesting parties in a legal case), while the Kass Council Report exemplifies academic diversity (the diversity found in a medieval disputatio). Drawing upon Thomas Aquinas, I argue that the type of diversity most appropriate for such advisory bodies is deliberative diversity, which facilitates the President's process of taking counsel. After considering their respective charges, I suggest that neither the Clinton Commission nor the Kass Council possessed an adequate degree of deliberative diversity for their respective tasks.

Publication Date
June, 2006
Citation Information
M. Cathleen Kaveny. "Diversity and Deliberation: Bioethics Commissions and Moral Reasoning" Journal of Religious Ethics Vol. 34 Iss. 2 (2006)
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