Constitution Day 2016 dives into bioethics


In celebration of Constitution Day, students and faculty will be getting the opportunity to learn about how the Constitution of the United States is interpreted as it relates to bioethics, the study of ethical issues brought from advances in medicine and biology.

The lecture will take place on September 22 from 4 to 5 p.m. in Murdock Hall Room 218 and will feature Douglas Mishkin, an attorney in the law firm Venable LLP in Washington D.C. To supplement his work in Washington, he works on cases involving bioethics.

“Bioethics is one of the greatest issues of our time,” Mishkin said. “And in connection to that, how the constitution interpretation is changing to accommodate the controversial issues bioethics present.”

Both Cynthia Brown, vice president of Student Affairs at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, and Mishkin believe in the importance of understanding the field of bioethics as it pertains to the constitution.

“Students should care because even though the federal government may feel like a foreign concept it affects our daily lives,” Brown said. “Understanding the principles of government will help us make informed decisions, especially on controversial topics like bioethics.”

To give prospective students background information, Mishkin created an optional reading list. Some of the court cases he will talk about are as follows:

The article “Ethicists approve ‘3 parent’ embryos to stop diseases” explains how top bioethicists and scientists have deemed a new type of genetic engineering ethically moral. The hope of this new medical advancement is to prevent congenital diseases. But, clinical trials are not legally allowed to take place due to a budget bill prohibiting experiments resulting in human embryos being genetically altered.

The Supreme Court case of Michael H v Gerald D began when Michael wanted to question the paternity of his likely daughter after two years. Gerald, who was the presumed father, argued Michael cannot challenge his paternity since he has held responsibility over the child longer than 2 years. The court ruled in favor of Gerald.

In Cruzan v Director the parents of Nancy Cruzan wanted to take her of life support but the state hospital refused without approval from the court. The court ruled in favor of the hospital because Nancy was unable to invoke her right to refuse medical treatment herself.

In Buck v Bell a Virginia state mental hospital wanted to sexual sterilize a patient but needed a hearing before performing the procedure. Sexual sterilization is when an individual is altered so they cannot reproduce. Virginal law allows for the sterilization of the mentally ill who are admitted into the mental health system, resulting in the Court allowing the procedure.

The Constitution of the United States outlines the law of the United States while protecting citizens by limiting governmental power. The 27 amendments are changes to the original constitution that gives additional rights such as the right to bear arms, freedom of speech, and freedom of press. The open interpretation by America’s judicial system effects everyday life for U.S. citizens.