The German Ethics Council holds its first public meeting

Yesterday, on Thursday, 26 June 2008, the German Ethics Council held its first public meeting in Berlin.

The meeting was devoted to two specific topics: the current practice of anonymous birth and the provision of baby drops in Germany, and the issues raised by chimera formation by genetic techniques. Introductory presentations by members of the Ethics Council who are acknowledged experts in the relevant fields were followed by a wide-ranging discussion.

In the morning session, Ulrike Riedel reported on the experience gained in Germany with anonymous birth since 1999 and with baby drops since 2000, as well as their impact on the individuals directly concerned and on society. The speaker took a critical view of the availability of anonymous birth and the provision of baby drops in Germany. She emphasized that this situation had not yet been the subject of an ethical appraisal and suggested that the issue be debated further by the German Ethics Council. It was agreed that the matter should receive further attention and that a public hearing with external experts would be held in October.

The afternoon session comprised a report by Jens Reich and Frank Emmrich on the different variants of genetically and somatically based chimera formation and hybridization and on whether experiments like those undertaken in the United Kingdom, involving the transfer of human somatic cell nuclei into enucleated animal egg cells, could be contemplated in Germany or whether this was prohibited under current law. The ensuing discussion showed that this issue called not only for legal consideration but also, and in particular, for detailed ethical study. The German Ethics Council will deliberate further on the extent of its future work on this topic.

At its next public meeting, to be held on 24 July, the Ethics Council will address issues of food and nutrition in our society, again in the form of an introductory presentation followed by a discussion.