On behalf of the Presidium of the German Bundestag, Vice-President Petra Pau thanked the Ethics Council in her opening address for its thorough and detailed work of advising the political world by means of the publication of Opinions and its exchanges with Members of Parliament.
Christiane Woopen, Chair of the German Ethics Council, reported in her speech of welcome that the Council was currently engaging with a large number of subjects. She stressed the importance for the Ethics Council of maintaining a dialogue with the Members of the Bundestag and of coordinating its work with them in such a way that the discussion could be taken into account in the political process at the appropriate time and in the appropriate manner.
Next, Michael Wunder, spokesperson for the Council’s internal working group on dementia and self-determination, presented the key points and recommendations of the Opinion with that title issued by the Council in April this year. The particular merit of this Opinion, in Dr. Wunder’s view, was the change of perspective achieved by the Ethics Council through its focus on the potential and the individual forms of experience and participation of persons with dementia even at an advanced stage of the condition, as well as on such self-determination as was still possible in each case.
The ensuing questions raised by the Parliamentarians were primarily concerned with practical aspects of the treatment of persons affected by dementia, such as the value to be accorded to advance decisions by formerly mentally competent individuals as compared with current expressions of their wishes when they no longer possess the capacity for consent; problems with the medical care of mostly multimorbid patients; the need to coordinate professional and voluntary care; and the necessity of providing continuing training for medical personnel in virtually every discipline while at the same time intensifying research on care.
Other prominent issues addressed during the course of the evening were the status of the Council’s deliberations on Opinions concerning “The future of genetic diagnosis”, “Dying, death and organ transplantation”, “Biosafety and the freedom of research” and “The prohibition of incest”.