Bioethicist named as this year's Wayne Morse Chair

Canadian bioethicist and professor Françoise Baylis is the 2020-21 Wayne Morse Chair and the first to hold the position virtually since the chair was established in 1981.

A philosopher whose innovative research in bioethics lies at the intersection of policy and practice, Baylis challenges her audience to think broadly and deeply about the direction of health, science and biotechnology. Her work aims to move the limits of mainstream bioethics and develop more effective ways to understand and tackle public policy challenges.

Her tenure at the Wayne Morse Center for Law and Politics kicks off Feb. 10, when she will offer the annual Wayne Morse Chair Public Address, “Designer Babies: All You Ever Wanted to Know (and More).” Baylis will participate in four more events in February, all part of the Wayne Morse Center’s “Science, Policy, and the Public” theme of inquiry.

“Françoise Baylis’s visit to the University of Oregon as 2020-21 Wayne Morse Chair could hardly be more urgent or timely,” said Ellen Herman, Wayne Morse Center co-director. “Living through a deadly global pandemic illustrates how deeply dependent human beings are on science and technology while also revealing dramatic misinformation and misunderstanding about everything from vaccination to genetic sequencing of new COVID variants.

“Baylis’ activities and events will offer much-needed information and insight on many subjects: designer babies, racial science and eugenics, and the potential benefits that technologies like CRISPR offer to human health alongside their ethical challenges.”

Baylis, a university research professor at Dalhousie University, Nova Scotia, is a frequent guest on CBC and Radio Canada and the author of many news stories with a behind-the-scenes look at ethical issues. Her most recent book is “Altered Inheritance: CRISPR and the Ethics of Human Genome Editing.”

Her current research focuses on heritable human genome modification, the body economy, assisted human reproduction and research involving women. Baylis is a member of the Order of Canada and the Order of Nova Scotia, as well as a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and a fellow of the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences. In 2017 she was awarded the Canadian Bioethics Society Lifetime Achievement Award. She has been named to "Who's Who in Black Canada" every year since 2002.

Events with Baylis are:

All events are free and open to the public; registration is required to participate via Zoom. They will also be livestreamed on Facebook and made available on the Wayne Morse Center's YouTube channel

By Abbie Stillie, Wayne Morse Center for Law and Politics