Press Release 08/2009

The German Ethics Council received representatives of its British and French counterparts

At the invitation of the German Ethics Council (DER), representatives of the ethics councils of France, Germany and the United Kingdom came together for a trilateral meeting in Berlin last Thursday.

Cornelia Quennet-Thielen, State Secretary at the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, and the British and French Ambassadors to Germany, Sir Michael Arthur and Bernard de Montferrand, welcomed the delegates at the beginning of this public event. They unanimously stressed the importance of the work of ethics councils in the context of the bioethical debate in their respective countries, as well as - with a view to a common European culture of values - at European level.

The joint deliberations centred on issues of current concern to the three ethics bodies. Rhona Knight gave an account of the recent Nuffield Council on Bioethics report on the ethical aspects of dementia. Jean-Claude Ameisen (Comité Consultatif National d’Éthique, France) described the process of reviewing the legislation on bioethics, which French law requires to be undertaken at five-year intervals. Wolf-Michael Catenhusen, Jochen Taupitz and Michael Wunder (German Ethics Council) reported on changes to the German legislation on bioethics over the last one or two years.

Later in the meeting, the members of the three ethics councils exchanged information on their current work programmes. The Nuffield Council is at present compiling reports on new approaches to the development of biofuels and on personalized healthcare and online medicine. Current issues in embryo research and ways of interacting with the public are matters on which the French ethics committee is engaged. The German Ethics Council’s agenda includes subjects such as biobanks, chimera and hybrid research, and resource allocation in healthcare. In addition, next year the DER will be setting up new working groups on issues of dementia and on reproductive medicine.

The meeting ended with a discussion by the delegates on the status of the current debate in the three countries on the treatment of cell, tissue and organ donations, with particular reference to possible ways of increasing the willingness of the public to donate and of allocating donated cells, tissues and organs fairly.

This meeting represents a continuation by the German Ethics Council of the former National Ethics Council’s tradition of collaborating with ethics councils and comparable institutions  in other countries and with those of international organizations. Together with encouragement of discussion in society and the preparation of opinions and recommendations for political and legislative action, international cooperation is one of the three duties incumbent on the Ethics Council under the Ethics Council Act of 16 July 2007.