Scientific policy advice in the field of bioethics has become increasingly important in Germany since the mid-1980s. On the one hand, this is due to developments in the life sciences which require increasingly complex social decision-making processes. On the other hand, these developments affect the human self-image and call for orientation with regard to the ethical questions that arise. In a pluralistic society there is no generally accepted moral authority, so that such orientation can only be gained through discourse. Therefore, the bioethical debate is no longer conducted only by experts and politicians within the legislative process, but has been placed on a broad societal foundation.
The progress of modern medicine and many of its applications cannot be contained within national borders. Therefore, ethical advice also aims at regulations at the international level, in particular regarding human rights. Examples include the Council of Europe's Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Dignity of the Human Being with regard to the Application of Biology and Medicine (1997) and the UNESCO's Universal Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights (2005).