U.S. Bioethics Commission to study ethics involving medical countermeasures for children (anthrax)

President’s Bioethics Commission takes up request by HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius for ethical advice on the development of medical countermeasures for children.

Excerpt from media release

On Jan. 10, 2012, Secretary Sebelius asked the Commission for ethical advice on the development of medical countermeasures for children…The issue garnered substantial public interest last fall when another Federal advisory committee recommended pediatric testing of the anthrax vaccine.

The question that sparked this broad charge from Secretary Sebelius to the Commission is how to treat children who have been exposed to anthrax; it was a question that arose during a Homeland Security exercise. The National Biodefense Science Board (NBSB) recommended testing children before an anthrax event, rather than waiting for a crisis. However, the NBSB also recommended that such testing occur only after the ethical considerations are adequately reviewed and addressed.

“We are carefully and transparently reviewing all of the ethical considerations surrounding the development of medical countermeasures for children,” Gutmann said.   “The safety of our children is paramount.  It is vital for us to thoroughly address any and all ethical considerations that impact how we treat our children in a time of crisis.”

As she introduced the issue to the Commission, Gutmann clearly outlined the task before the panel, “At issue is the lack of development of appropriate pediatric medical countermeasures that would be needed in a crisis   This is not a review of the merits of vaccine research in general.”

Sebelius today told the Commission she trusted the panel to do the job. “The Commission has delivered rational, independent, evidence-based advice on a wide range of complex bioethical issues. And I know I can look forward to receiving the same, when it comes to countermeasures for children.” Secretary Sebelius said as she addressed the Commission…