Bioethicist Arthur Caplan, winner of the National Science Board's 2014 Individual Public Service Award, discusses the importance and potential of bioethics.
Caplan is director of the Division of Medical Ethics at New York University Langone Medical Center, and a frequent contributor to WebMD/Medscape, NBC.com and various public radio stations. Caplan was a student at Columbia Medical School when he wandered into the philosophy department, looking for advice on the ethical medical issues he would face as a doctor. Initially, the philosophers "looked at me like I'd flow in from Pluto," Caplan said.
He ended up getting a Ph.D. in philosophy, and is considered a global leader in bioethics. "I don't really see the job of the bioethicist as saying, 'You have to go to this panel of gurus and they will solve it and then we'll move on,'" he says. "Everybody should be engaged, there's a wide spectrum of views out there."
The NSB's Public Service Award honors an individual's exemplary service in fostering public understanding of science and engineering.