The Bioethics Project 2012/13

A Student Research Program from The Hastings Center and
The Ethics Institute at Kent Place School

In the spring of 2012, after an extensive application process, twelve Kent Place School students were chosen as the first group to participate in The Bioethics Project—a student research program developed by The Hastings Center, an internationally recognized institute for the study of bioethics, and The Ethics Institute at Kent Place, a leader in primary and secondary school ethics education. The Bioethics Project is an interdisciplinary program that bridges subjects such as science, philosophy, critical reading and writing, history, and politics. This year, the program focused on the use of medical technologies to change human capacities under the title “The Medically Modified Human: Is Better Always Good?”

Beginning with a summer internship and continuing throughout the duration of the 2012/13 program, students have learned how to identify and analyze contemporary ethical dilemmas that emerge in the context of science and medicine—issues ranging from the fair distribution of resources in health care, to debates surrounding modern reproductive technologies. This symposium is their chance to share their findings with their families and school community and to lead us all in a conversation that tolerates opposing viewpoints and acknowledges the complexity inherent in complex social debates.

The Bioethics Project is modeled after The Hastings Center’s hallmark research methodology, which emphasizes the importance of bringing stakeholders and experts together to explore the ethical and social implications of a given bioethical issue. As students explored the debate over using medicine for human enhancement, they became the “experts,” honing in on a subtopic within this larger theme. Some examples of their research questions include the social implications of pursuing cosmetic surgery, the permissibility of stimulants in academics and sports, and the ethics of memory enhancement.

Program Elements

Summer Internship: Students took an intensive crash course in ethical decision-making and bioethics, in which they were introduced to ethical concepts through engagement with a range of major topics and cases, each of which illustrated key ethical principles and the tensions between them.  The summer was also a time for field trips to meet with community leaders whose roles intersect with bioethics. On one trip, students met with marketers at Johnson & Johnson to discuss ethical implications of advertising beauty products to teenagers. By the end of the summer, students had identified their individual research topics.

Research and Mentorship: At the start of the 2012-2013 school year, and with the guidance of Kent Place teachers and Hastings Center mentors, the students conducted their individual research projects.  In the fall, they presented their preliminary findings to their teachers, mentors, and to each other at a day-long project workshop. Students articulated their findings and conclusions, and provided feedback to one other about areas for further research and development.

The Website and Community Symposium: With the benefit of the workshop feedback, students completed their research and drafted essays describing their findings and conclusions. These essays are published on the project’s website. The community symposium is the culminating event of The Bioethics Project. It is an opportunity for the students to unveil their website and lead their community in educational workshops that showcase their research and analysis.

The Partners

The Hastings Center has for over 40 years led the field of bioethics, conducting interdisciplinary research on some of the most contested in medicine and science. Over this time, it has developed a distinguished track record of bringing diverse people and perspectives together in workshops that are respectful and substantive. Its process is remarkably conducive to both finding areas of agreement and clarifying where moral differences exist.

The Ethics Institute at Kent Place School has developed ethics education for Kent Place School students,  teachers, parents and other community members. To foster ethical thinking in all primary and secondary school communities, The Ethics Institute also develops educator training to support educators in integrating ethics across all areas of the curriculum.


Project Team


The Hastings Center

Josephine Johnston, Director of Research
Jacob Moses, New Media Director
Cameron Waldman, Research Assistant
Mildred Z. Solomon, President & CEO

The Ethics Institute at Kent Place School

Karen Rezach, Director of The Ethics Institute
Kimberly Coelho, Ethics Program Coordinator

Kent Place School

Susan Bosland, Head of School
Elizabeth Woodall, Director of the Upper School
Julia Gentile, Director of Studies
Wendy Hall, Science Department Chair
Rose Chaffee-Cohen, Upper School Science Teacher
Kimberly Pearson, Director of Technology

Mentors from The Hastings Center

Nancy Berlinger, MDiv, PhD
Susan Gilbert
Michael K. Gusmano, PhD
Josephine Johnston, LLB, MBHL
Gregory E. Kaebnick, PhD
Karen Maschke, PhD
Jacob Moses
Erik Parens, PhD
Barbra Rothschild, MD
Naomi Schienerman
Cameron Waldman