The Primacy of the Public: In Support of Bioethics Commissions as Deliberative Forums
Dzur, Albert W.
Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal 2007 June; 17(2): 133-142
In a 2004 article, we argued that bioethics commissions should be assessed in terms of their usefulness as public forums. A 2006 article by Summer Johnson argued that our perspective was not supported by the existing literature on presidential commissions, which had not previously identified commissions as public forums and that we did not properly account for the political functions of commissions as instruments of presidential power. Johnson also argued that there was nothing sufficiently unique about bioethics commissions to make the public forum perspective particularly applicable. We respond by arguing that analysis of commissions' work as public forums fits well within the literature on commissions, especially on their agenda-setting functions, and that the political functions of commissions are often compatible with their functioning as public forums. We also demonstrate how the origins and concerns of bioethics make public forum analysis particularly applicable to bioethics commissions.
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