Director of Research, Research Scholar
Josephine Johnston is an expert on the ethical, legal, and policy implications of biomedical technologies, particularly as used in human reproduction, psychiatry, genetics, and neuroscience. In addition to numerous scholarly publications, her commentaries have appeared in Stat News, The New Republic, Time, Washington Post, and The Scientist. Ms. Johnston is interviewed frequently by the media, appearing in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, the Guardian, Wired, and Vice Media and on ABC’s “Nightline.”
Ms. Johnston’s current projects address the ethical implications of new kinds of prenatal genetic tests, the relationship between gene editing technologies and understandings of human flourishing, and, with colleagues at University of California, San Francisco, the potential use of genetic sequencing technology in newborns. She is also a member of Columbia University Medical Center’s Center for Excellence in Ethical, Legal and Social Implications looking at psychiatric, neurologic and behavioral genetics. In addition, Johnston has, with colleagues at Kent Place School, developed a Hastings Center-style research program for high school students.
Josephine Johnston is a New Zealand-trained lawyer with a master’s degree in bioethics and health law from the University of Otago. She joined the staff of The Hastings Center as a research scholar in 2003 and became director of research in 2012. Prior to coming to Hastings Center, Ms. Johnston worked as a bioethics researcher at Dalhousie University and the University of Minnesota. She has also worked as a lawyer in both New Zealand and Germany.
In the Media
STAT on animal-human chimeras
Wired on gene editing
The Guardian on egg freezing
ABC’s “Nightline” on egg freezing
Wall Street Journal on fertility treatment and multiple births
NPR’s “Science Friday” on stem cell research and the legacy of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein
New York Times Magazine on multiple pregnancies
Josephine Johnston, “Is Finding Out Your Baby’s Genetics A New Responsibility of Parenting?” LeapsMag, March 13, 2018.
Josephine Johnston and Elizabeth Dietz, “Bioethics: Key Concepts and Research,” JSTOR Daily March 8, 2018.
Josephine Johnston, “The Nebulous Ethics of Human Germline Gene Editing,” Hastings Bioethics Forum January 23, 2017.
Josephine Johnston and Eric Trump, “Uterus transplants are no match for the safety of surrogacy,” Stat News, March 7, 2016.
Josephine Johnston and Miriam Zoll, “Is Freezing Your Eggs Dangerous? A Primer,” The New Republic, November 1, 2014.
Josephine Johnston, “The Ghost of the Schizophrenogenic Mother,” AMA Journal of Ethics 2013; 15:801-805.
Josephine Johnston, “Pitch Perfect,” The Scientist 2012; 26(1): 24-25.
Erik Parens and Josephine Johnston, “As Tests to Predict Alzheimer’s Emerge, So May Debates Over the Right to Die,” Time, June 8, 2011.
Josephine Johnston, “The Trouble with Twin Births: Government Limits and Price Controls,” New York Times Room for Debate, October 11, 2009.
Selected Scholarly Publications
Josephine Johnston and Rachel Zacharias, “The Future of Reproductive Autonomy” Hastings Center Report 2017; 47(6): S6-S11.
Josephine Johnston, Ruth M Farrell, and Erik Parens, “Supporting Women’s Autonomy in Prenatal Testing,” New England Journal of Medicine 2017; 377(6):505-7.
Insoo Hyun, Amy Wilkerson, and Josephine Johnston, “Revisit the 14-Day Rule,” Nature 2016; 533(7602):169-71.
Josephine Johnston, Mohini P. Banerjee, and Gail Geller, “Trustworthy Research Institutions: The Challenging Case of Studying the Genetics of Intelligence,” Hastings Center Report 2015; 45(5): S59-S65.
Josephine Johnston, Michael K. Gusmano, and Pasquale Patrizio, “Preterm Births, Multiples, and Fertility Treatment,” Fertility and Sterility 2014; 102(1): 36-40.
Amy Wilkerson, Kathaliya Wongsatittham, and Josephine Johnston, “The NIH Stem Cell Registry: An Absence of Gamete Donor Consent,” Cell Stem Cell 2013; 12(2):147-8.
Erik Parens and Josephine Johnston, “Neuroimaging: Beginning to Appreciate Its Complexities” Hastings Center Report 2014; 44(2): S2-S7.
Josephine Johnston, “Normalizing Atypical Genitalia: How a Heated Debate Went Astray,” Hastings Center Report 2012; 42(6): 32-44.
Erik Parens and Josephine Johnston, “Troubled Children: Diagnosing, Treating, and Attending to Context,” Hastings Center Report 2011; 41(2): S1-S31.
Erik Parens, Josephine Johnston and Gabrielle A. Carlson, “Pediatric Mental Health Care Dysfunction Disorder?” New England Journal of Medicine 2010; 362(20): 1853-1855.
Thomas H Murray and Josephine Johnston (eds.), Trust and Integrity in Biomedical Research: The Case of Financial Conflicts of Interest, Johns Hopkins University Press, 2010.
Posts by Josephine Johnston
- Bioethics Forum Essay
The Nebulous Ethics of Human Germline Gene EditingRead the PostBioethics Forum EssayShould scientists pursue research that would enable prospective parents to edit the genes of their future children in ways that could be passed onto subsequent generations? Not for now, according to the organizers of a summit held in Washington DC at the end of 2015. The three day International Summi...Read the Post
- From Bioethics Briefings
Mental Health in Children and AdolescentsRead the PostFrom Bioethics BriefingsFraming the Issue In 2000, the U.S. Surgeon General reported that approximately 1 in 5 children and adolescents experiences the signs and symptoms of a mental health disorder during the course of a year, and that about 1 in 10 children experiences “significant functional impairment” as a result. ...Read the Post
- From Bioethics Briefings
Intellectual Property and BiomedicineRead the PostFrom Bioethics BriefingsFraming the Issue On April 12, 1955, after eight years of research and testing, Jonas Salk’s polio vaccine was pronounced safe and effective. In the last century polio was a feared killer: an outbreak in 1916 left 6,000 American children dead and another 27,000 paralyzed. Two years following releas...Read the Post
- From Bioethics Briefings
Conflict of Interest in Biomedical ResearchRead the PostFrom Bioethics BriefingsFraming the Issue Traditionally, academic biomedical research institutions and for-profit companies have had different missions. Academic institutions have focused on teaching, research, and public service, whereas companies have focused on generating revenue through commercial activities. But the di...Read the Post