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Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues

May 17, 2012
Washington, DC

I want to begin by thanking everyone here for their service and commitment to the Commission's important work. I know you all have busy schedules. But you have volunteered your time and expertise to make sure we get these issues right.

From investigating the Public Health Service experiments in Guatemala to assessing the rules that protect human subjects in research today -- the Commission brings transparent, democratic deliberation to some of our most difficult issues.

And that is the same approach I have asked you to bring to your examination of the ethical issues surrounding the development of medical countermeasures for children.

As you know, the US Department of Health and Human Services is responsible for developing and stockpiling safe and effective medical countermeasures to protect the nation from bioterror attacks.  

Soon after becoming Secretary, I called for an unprecedented review of our entire medical countermeasures enterprise. It was clear that we needed to improve our capacity to produce medical countermeasures rapidly in the face of any attack or threat.

And while we have made significant progress toward these goals for adults, the development of appropriate medical countermeasures for children has been slower. That's due in part to the challenges we face in collecting appropriate scientific information about pediatric populations.

We must address this particular problem. But we have to do it thoughtfully, with our children's safety as our highest priority.

We need to gather the best science available. But that is only part of our job. We also have a responsibility to look at all the costs and benefits, risk and opportunities, then proceed in a way that reflects our values as a nation.

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.

Thank you again for your service.