In her welcoming address, the Chair of the Ethics Council, Christiane Woopen, thanked MPs for their collaboration, as well as the recently approved budget increase for the council. She briefly presented the council's current topics, while underscoring its international dimensions. The German Ethics Council is immensely honored to be hosting the Global Summit of National Ethics Councils from all over the world next year in Berlin.
Norbert Lammert, the President of the Bundestag, praised the work of the Ethics Council as a useful and necessary complement to parliamentary debates on ethical questions. Referring to the council’s recent recommendations, Lammert stressed that the German Bundestag is not simply interested in conclusions that meet the expectations of parlamentarians. He also spoke about the importance of receiving an early basic orientation with regard to technological developments which must be shaped by politics.
Patricia Lips, who chairs the Bundestag's Committee on Education, Research and Technology Assessment, also thanked the Ethics Council for its work. She expressed satisfaction with the non-partisan nature of the interest as well as the interest across different committees that MPs have shown in directly consulting with members of the Ethics Council on current ethical issues.
The council's latest position paper on "Brain Death and Decisions Regarding Organ Donation" was one of the main topics of the evening. Council members Wolfram Höfling and Reinhard Merkel presented the paper. In the discussion that followed, council members emphasized that the German Ethics Council’s opinion is intended to strengthen trust in transplantation medicine in Germany. This requires transparency, as well as an open social debate on controversial issues. The recommendation on guidelines for measures to protect organs as well as the normative function of the Dead Donor Rule were also discussed. Christiane Woopen underlined that despite differing views on several issues, the German Ethics Council unanimously holds the opinion that brain death must remain a precondition for post-mortal organ donation.
Looking ahead to upcoming consultations in the German Bundestag on legal regulations regarding assisted suicide, the Ethics Council Chair presented the ad hoc recommendation "The Regulation of Assisted Suicide in an Open Society: German Ethics Council recommends the statutory reinforcement of suicide prevention". In the paper, the Ethics Council calls for legal regulations that would strengthen measures to prevent suicide, and thus broaden the discussion to include all people at risk of suicide, no matter what their situation in life. The council supports strengthening hospice and palliative care, but says that this alone was not sufficient in addressing the issue of assisted suicide.
During the course of the evening, Ethics Council Chair Christiane Woopen also presented the council's Annual Report 2014 to Bundestag President Norbert Lammert.
The position paper on "Brain Death and Decisions Regarding Organ Donation", the ad hoc recommendation on "The Regulation of Assisted Suicide in an Open Society: the German Ethics Council recommends the statutory reinforcement of suicide prevention", as well as the Ethics Council's 2014 Annual Report are available online at www.ethikrat.org.