Debra JH Mathews, PhD, MA, the Assistant Director for Science Programs for the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics, and an Associate Professor in the Department of Genetic Medicine at the JHU School of Medicine, has been appointed as President-elect of the International Neuroethics Society (INS). After one year in this role, Dr. Mathews will serve a two-year term as President, during which time she will work to expand connections between the INS and other professional societies, including those representing neuroscientists and researchers in other areas of science and bioethics.
“Even as disciplinary silos can be incredibly helpful for enabling specialization and depth, and for creating and building community, they can also cut us off from valuable information, ideas, methods, and relationships. I would like to see the field and the INS build connections to scientists and technologists and to social scientists asking similar questions in different academic spaces,” said Mathews. “Doing so will not only expand the universe of people who know about and might get involved with the INS, but will also help expand the thinking and enrich the scholarship of our members.”
Dr. Mathews is responsible for overseeing science and technology related programs in the Berman Institute. She also runs the Genomics and Society Mentorship Program and serves as the Chair of the Berman Institute’s Inclusion, Diversity, Anti-Racism, and Equity Committee. Within the Johns Hopkins Institute for Assured Autonomy (IAA), Dr. Mathews serves as the Ethics & Governance Lead. In this role, she leads work focused on the ethical, societal, and governance implications of autonomous systems, and identifies opportunities across IAA for the integration of ethics and governance work and priorities. She has been an active member of the INS since its inception in 2006 and has served on the Society’s Board of Directors since 2015.
Dr. Mathews’s academic work focuses on ethics and policy issues raised by emerging technologies, with particular focus on neuroscience, genetics, stem cell science, synthetic biology, and artificial intelligence. In addition to her academic work, Dr. Mathews has spent time at the Genetics and Public Policy Center, the US Department of Health and Human Services, the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues, and the National Academy of Medicine working in various capacities on science policy.
The International Neuroethics Society is a professional association of scientists, scholars, students, and practicing legal and health professionals leading the discussion on the complex ethical issues arising from brain research and an expanding understanding of the mind.
Alan is also engaged in a broad range of research projects and programs, including the Berman Institute’s science programs: the Stem Cell Policy and Ethics (SCOPE) Program; the Program in Ethics and Brain Sciences (PEBS-Neuroethics); and the Hinxton Group, an international consortium on stem cells, ethics and law; and the eSchool+ Initiative. Recent research has focused on using deliberative democracy tools to engage with communities about their values for allocating scarce medical resources like ventilators in disasters like pandemics. Additional recent work has focused on ethical challenges related to gene editing, stem cell research, social media, public engagement, vaccines, and neuroethics. (Publications)
The monthly Ethics for Lunch discussion used a case in which a young man with a complex history of mental illness is refusing treatment for a blood infection as the basis for a broader discussion of decision-making capacity and mental illness.
The healthcare team is concerned about how to manage his care if he were to go into septic shock after having refused the needed interventions. Given the background of his mental illness and past self-injurious behavior, they request an ethics consult to discuss whether they would be obligated to allow him to die or if it would be ethically permissible to go against his wishes and treat him once he lost decision making capacity.