Bioethicist Discusses the Roots of Law and Justice at NDLS

“Is the source of law and justice purely a human matter, or does our adherence to law and our concern with justice require some relationship to the divine?” This question is the foundation for a talk at Notre Dame Law School by Leon R. Kass, M.D., Ph.D. Kass is the Addie Clark Harding Professor in the Committee on Social Thought at the University of Chicago, and the Hertog Fellow in Social Thought at the American Enterprise Institute. He was chairman of the President’s Council on Bioethics from 2002 to 2005.

In his talk, Kass will explain how the roots of law and justice can be found in the book of Genesis in the Bible. The lecture is part of the 2008 Natural Law Institute, sponsored by the American Journal of Jurisprudence at the University of Notre Dame Law School. The event is Thursday, March 27 at 4 p.m. in the law school courtroom.

A native of Chicago, Dr. Kass was educated at the University of Chicago where he earned his B.S. and M.D. degrees (1958; 1962) and at Harvard where he earned a Ph.D. in biochemistry (1967). Afterwards, he did research in molecular biology at the National Institutes of Health, while serving in the United States Public Health Service.

For more than 30 years, Kass has addressed the ethical and philosophical issues raised by biomedical advance. From 1970-72, he served as executive secretary of the Committee on the Life Sciences and Social Policy of the National Research Council/National Academy of Sciences. The Council’s report, Assessing Biomedical Technologies, provided one of the first overviews of the emerging moral and social questions posed by biomedical advance.

Kass taught at St. John’s College in Annapolis, Md., and served as Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr., Research Professor in Bioethics at the Kennedy Institute of Ethics at Georgetown University. He returned in 1976 to the University of Chicago, where he has been an award-winning teacher deeply involved in undergraduate education and committed to the study of classic texts.

Kass has written numerous articles and books, and his widely reprinted essays in biomedical ethics have dealt with issues raised by in vitro fertilization, cloning, genetic screening and genetic technology, organ transplantation, aging research, euthanasia and assisted suicide, and the moral nature of the medical profession.

The Natural Law Institute of Notre Dame Law School was established in 1947. In 1956, the Institute founded the Natural Law Forum, the only journal of its kind in the English language. The name of the journal was changed in 1970 to the American Journal of Jurisprudence.

The journal publishes articles and review essays critically examining the moral foundations of law and legal systems and exploring current and historical issues in ethics, jurisprudence, and legal (including constitutional) theory. Unsolicited manuscripts are welcome. Further information about submissions is provided in the Notice to Contributors.