Consortium Faculty





Prof. Leigh Turner

Turner Warns of Explosive Growth in Bogus Stem Cell Therapies

June 18, 2019

According to Wired magazine, "Since the mid-2000s, clinics have been selling expensive, unproven stem-cell treatments to any patient desperate enough to believe their claims of cures for everything from arthritis to autism." These clinics have "been tied to serious infections, several cases of blindness, and one patient’s death." Leigh Turner, a professor at the Center for Bioethics, a Consortium member, has authored several major research papers on the growing availability of questionable stem-cell therapies. Turner notes that despite greater FDA scutiny, which includes an "increase the rule changes and the public hearings and more inspections and warning letters and the lawsuits, the market is still expanding at a rapid rate.” A recent Pro Publica/New Yorker investigation provides additional details of the promotional methods and dubious science that ensnares consumers in these dangerous interventions.


John Song, physician and bioethicist at University of Minnesota

Remembering Dr. John Song

March 1, 2019

With great sadness, we note the passing of Prof. John Song, MD, MPH, MAT, a faculty member in the University's Center for Bioethics and Department of Medicine. Dr. Song was an exemplary physician, bioethicist, and human being – a crucial member of the University’s ethics community. The Center for Bioethics memorial notes his "staunch advocacy for disadvantaged people, compassionate care for all, devoted mentorship for students, and generous collegiality." Prof. Song joined the University faculty in 2000, where his clinical practice and research reflected his strong commitment to meeting the health care needs of homeless people, including conducting groundbreaking research focusing on end-of-life care and homelessness. He founded the Phillips Neighborhood Clinic in Minneapolis, was faculty advisor to the Interprofessional Street Outreach Program, and served as Director of Graduate Studies at the Center for Bioethics. The University’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI) has established a new award for excellence in John’s honorConsortium chair Susan Wolf reflects that, “John’s passing is a profound loss to us all. The memory of his extraordinary commitment and caring, his deep engagement with ethics, and his tremendous kindness will live on.” The Star Tribune obituary can be read here.    


Model of crystal structure for CRISPR-Cas9

CRISPR Babies Stun the World, Provoke Ethical Controversy

December 27, 2018

As 2018 comes to a close, one of the year's most startling scientific developments was the announcement of gene-edited twin girls born in China. While the promise and power of the technique known as CRISPR have long been known, scientists and policymakers have emphasized resisting the temptation to use it on human embryos. That is, however, precisely what He Jainkui did, as described in an article in Wired. He's attempt to contain the firestorm of criticism by proposing "a core set of fundamental human values to frame, guide and restrict clinical applications" of gene editing failed miserably, putting a point on the fact that "there are no actual international rules" for use of the technique. The primary ethical concern is limited understanding of the effects of so-called "germline editing," which is heritable and can be passed to future generations. Beyond doubts about the effects of CRISPR on the twin girls, Wired notes, "He’s research raises the spectre of gene-editing enhancements, designer babies if you will, such as making a person taller or smarter before birth," possibly heralding a new era of human-created genetic inequality. 




Star Tribune logo

Ketamine Study, Performed Without Patient Consent, Raises Alarms

June 25, 2018

An article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune describes concerns over a program in which paramedics from Hennepin Healthcare administer the sedative ketamine when responding to reports of extremely aggressive or agitated people. The newspaper obtained a draft report that examined the protocol, which was apparently driven by a study "which began last August, requires no consent from patients whose data can be used for research, but gives the subject the option to opt out afterward." The report alleges that in some cases, police encouraged or directed use of the drug. Representatives of Hennepin Healthcare explain that ketamine and and other sedatives "can be a lifesaving tool when paramedics encounter people showing signs of 'excited delirium,' a condition when severe agitation can lead to death." However, "a recent paper published by the hospital [noted that] 57 percent of study patients given ketamine required intubation — inserting a tube in the throat to help deliver oxygen." According to Carl Elliott, who is on the faculty of the Center for Bioethics, a Consortium member, “If I were asked to consent to this study in advance, I would refuse. I would never want to be in this study. And yet they’re describing it to people like it’s so uncontroversial that they can enroll them without even asking them.”


Prof Susan M. WOlf

Prof. Wolf Weighs In On New Alzheimer's Research

April 18, 2018

Consortium chair Susan M. Wolf  and Dr. Ronald Petersen (Mayo Clinic) were interviewed yesterday about the practical, ethical and legal implications of new tools for early diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease. The interview was conducted by Kerri Miller of MPR News, and focuses on Dr. Petersen's recently published research, with Prof. Wolf weighing in on the nuances of translating it to clinical practice. Phone calls from people already diagnosed with Alzheimer's and those who have a family history of the disease illuminate the challenges of grappling with this heartbreaking illness. Listen to the entire interview here.


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Stay Updated on Consortium Resources and Activities!

February 2, 2018

Every year, the Consortium sponsors leading national programs, undertakes cross-disciplinary research and provides grants to support scholarship on the societal implications of the life sciences. We also connect our 19 member centers and affiliate faculty with national and international collaborators to create a vibrant community of thinkers and policymakers. To stay up to date on our offerings and news, sign up for our email list. And don't forget to follow us on Facebook and Twitter!  


Jeffrey Kahn

Are Bioethicists Keeping Pace with Rapid Changes in Gene Editing?

January 17, 2018

Jeffrey Kahn, Director of the Berman Institute of Bioethics at Johns Hopkins University, joined Minnesota Public Radio host Kerri Miller today to discuss innovations in gene editing and the consequences that must be considered as it moves into clinical application. New tools like CRISPR are much more targeted than past gene therapies; molecular biology now allows the precoding of both the material and the location affected by genetic change. This raises thorny ethical questions: could these techniques go beyond curing diseases to creating genetic enhancements that could make someone stronger or faster? Could gene editing be used to advance eugenics, by making it possible to change someone's skin color? Will the benefits be widely available, or only help the wealthy and powerful? What does it mean to disabled if we have the ability to wipe out conditions like Down syndrome? Rapid advancements in gene therapy and the development of technologies that are more powerful than originally expected means carefully considered policy and clinical approaches must be put in place. Listen to the whole conversation here. Before joining Johns Hopkins, Prof. Kahn was Director of the Center for Bioethics at University of Minnesota. 


IV drip

Unconscious Man with DNR Tattoo Presents Ethical, Legal Challenges

December 4, 2017

An article in the New England Journal of Medicine describes the case of a man  unconscious, in deteriorating health, and without identification or family  who was admitted to a Miami emergency room. Upon examination, doctors found a large tattoo that said DO NOT RESUSCITATE (DNR) on his upper chest. The ER doctors were initially inclined to disregard the DNR, "invoking the principle of not choosing an irreversible path when faced with uncertainty." However, an ethics consultant advocated that the patient's wishes, expressed through his tattoo, be honored. The patient died the next day. Hastings Center Scholar Nancy Berlinger opines, "[It] might have been the most reliable way to make his voice heard. It was right to take it seriously." She is co-author (with Consortium chair Susan M. Wolf and Bruce Jennings of the Center for Humans and Nature) of the definitive Guidelines on the Termination of Life-Sustaining Treatment and the Care of the DyingIn the Washington Post, bioethicist Arthur Caplan discusses the legal implications of the case, noting "there are no legal penalties for ignoring a tattoo that instructs medical personnel not to resuscitate." He goes on to say, “'A tattoo, I think, is best seen as a way to alert medical staff to your wishes or trigger an inquiry to family and friends and partners'. . . adding that patients should keep the actual [advance health-care directive] in a pocket or wallet."


Steven Miles

Miles Wins ASBH Lifetime Achievement Award

November 1, 2017

Steven H. Miles, MD, has been recognized by the American Society for Bioethics and Humanities (ASBH) for his contributions to the field. Miles is Professor Emeritus at the Center for Bioethics, a Consortium member, and is best known for his work to hold people who perform and enable torture to account. As he noted in his award address, "In the United States, there are as many torture survivors as persons with Parkinson’s disease. . . . Where are the clinics and researchers to serve the needs of these people? Where are the ethicists and ethics committees speaking against the castes that make such suffering invisible to our academic health centers and health care system?" Miles is the author of Oath Betrayed: Torture, Medical Complicity, and the War on Terror and Doctors Who Torture, among other books and articles. 


Susan Wolf

Susan Wolf on the Ethics of GTEx

October 13, 2017

Nature News and Comment​ has just published an article about an National Institutes of Health (NIH)​-funded study on gene expression that's intended to create "a 'Google Maps' of the body, according to Kristin Ardlie of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard​. The study, known as GTEx, is collecting data from the tissues of deceased donors and has the goal of plugging "a gap in the search for the genetic origins of disease." Laura Siminoff, a bioethicist at Temple University​, has studied whether the families of donors truly understood the possible implications of participating in the study, and suggested that "some form of genetic counseling should be made part of the informed consent process for similar projects." Regarding the lack of a plan to return GTEx results to families, Consortium Chair Susan M. Wolf noted in the article, “'A standing policy of simply 'we will not return results' is becoming less and less common.' She noted that studies such as GTEx should plan to enable families to be identified if researchers discover, for instance, a mutation that dramatically increases the risk of cancer for relatives who inherit it."