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  • In Honor of LeRoy Walters: Introduction from the Editors
  • Eric M. Meslin (bio), Eric T. Juengst (bio), and Carol Mason Spicer (bio)

Since the birth of bioethics, a persistent refrain has been that advances in science, technology, and health are occurring so quickly that they threaten to outpace society’s ability to understand and react to them. Genomics, big data, and synthetic biology preoccupy current scholarly and policy debates, just as organ transplantation, in vitro fertilization, human subjects research, and gene therapy did over the past forty years. But the history of bioethics is more than the topics it has addressed. It is also the story of the people whose voices shaped its debates and built society’s capacity to manage the escalating pace of technological change.

LeRoy Walters is one of those contributors who made a difference. He is part of an original community of scholars and intellectuals who were involved in these issues from the earliest days of bioethics. Now an Emeritus Faculty at the Kennedy Institute of Ethics at Georgetown University, Walters joined the Kennedy Institute in 1971 as its first faculty member appointed to a multi-year term by the new Director, Andre Hellegers, and has remained affiliated with the Institute ever since. His academic training at Messiah College, Associated Mennonite Seminaries, University of Heidelberg, Free University of Berlin, and Yale University focused on religious studies culminating in a Ph.D. on just war theory that provided the moral foundation for his ongoing work.

Rising through the academic ranks until becoming the Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr., Professor of Christian Ethics in 1993, Walters was also Director of the Kennedy Institute for a three-year period. In addition to teaching and mentoring during his tenure at the Institute, he was also a bioethics “builder.” He envisioned and implemented Bioethicsline, one of the first online, annotated databases for bioethics research in the world. Linked to the National Library of Medicine, Bioethicsline served as a portal to what would become the National Reference Center for Bioethics Literature, the largest resource of its kind in the world. During his tenure, the Kennedy Institute began housing the collections of past [End Page xi] bioethics commissions and advisory bodies and an innovative DNA Patent Database, an unusual project for a bioethicist.

Walters was a recently appointed Associate Professor when the editors and contributors to this special issue of KIEJ first encountered him as graduate students and colleagues in the early 1980s. Generations of students and colleagues have subsequently benefitted from his wisdom and gracious mentoring, but so too have countless federal agencies, departments, advisory committees, and working groups that he assisted as a consultant, member, or chair.

Walters was involved in many of the most significant bioethics policy discussions occurring in the U.S. from the 1970s through the 2000s. He was a consultant to the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the DHEW Ethics Advisory Board, and the National Commission for the Protection of Human Subjects of Biomedical and Behavioral Research, for whom he prepared a key background paper on fetal research and participated in the development of its Belmont Report. He served for three terms on the NIH Recombinant DNA Advisory Committee, chairing the committee’s Working Group on Human Gene Therapy, which established review criteria for clinical gene transfer research and is still functioning four decades later.

He chaired the NIH Human Fetal Tissue Transplantation Research Panel; sat on the Ethical, Legal and Social Implications Research Planning and Evaluation Group Program of the National Human Genome Research Institute; was a member of the Bioethics Committee of the National March of Dimes, the DHEW Secretary’s Task Force on Compensation of Injured Research Subjects, and as a committee member of Institute of Medicine studies on AIDS and vaccine development. He was an influential advisor and consultant to the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment, Office for Protection from Research Risks, and two presidential bioethics commissions.

In addition to his policy influence, he is a prolific writer and aggregator of resources for use by others. Walters is responsible for creating and co-editing with Tamar Joy Kahn and Doris Mueller Goldstein thirty-five volumes of the Bibliography of Bioethics...


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