Developments in the field of biomedicine promise significant benefits for individuals, for society and for future generations. The pursuit of these benefits, however, often involves significant ethical and social challenges. It may rest on decisions made in the context of scientific uncertainty and conflicting values, but which may have far-reaching implications. Many biomedical developments have the potential to produce profound changes in the social and economic environment. They can challenge and potentially reconfigure the norms by which life is ordinarily lived. This is why the directions taken by biomedical developments, and the way the risks and potential benefits are distributed, are of profound public interest.

The Council of Europe Committee on Bioethics (DH-BIO) has produced this guide to assist member States in promoting public debate In this document and in Article 28 of the Oviedo Convention the overarching concept of ‘public debate’ is used to describe discursive interactions in the public sphere (that is, not in a professional context) through which individuals and groups may identify, explore and resolve their different interests in matters that affect (or potentially affect) them all. in this field. It aims to give guidance to those who take on the responsibility of initiating or supporting public debate and to those who respond to it through public policy. These include decision makers within member States, government officials and public authorities, national ethics committees, educational and academic institutions and other relevant organisations.


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