Developments in biomedicine raise fundamental questions which concern all members of our societies. Society’s views must be ascertained as far as possible with regard to these questions. Appropriate public discussion and consultation are essential. The relevance of public debate has recently been re-emphasised with regard to new technological developments.

The Committee on () organises, under the auspices of the French Presidency of the Committee of Ministers , a High-level seminar on public debate as a tool for the governance of new


The high-level seminar will take place on 4 June 2019 in Strasbourg, Palais de l’Europe (Room 1).


The Committee on Bioethics (DH-BIO) is developing a Guide to Public Debate on issues raised by developments in biomedicine as a tool for policy makers to help them engage with the public with a view to developing policy guidelines. The Guide aims in particular at facilitating the implementation of Article 28 of the Convention on Human Rights and Biomedicine, namely:

  • raising public awareness, in particular by the circulation of information
  • promoting discussion in public sphere on targeted health-related issues between different actors, groups and individuals, including those who are marginalised and disadvantage
  • facilitating consultation of the public by authorities with a view to make policy decisions.
Basis of work Basis of work

Terms of reference of the Committee on Bioethics (DH-BIO) for 2018-2019:

“Subject to the results of the international conference organised on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the Oviedo Convention, draft guidelines for the promotion of public debate on human rights are developed”.

Article 28 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Dignity of the Human Being with regard to the Application of Biology and Medicine (also known as the “Oviedo Convention”), states:

“Parties to this Convention shall see to it that the fundamental questions raised by the developments of biology and medicine are the subject of appropriate public discussion in the light, in particular, of relevant medical, social, economic, ethical and legal implications, and that their possible application is made the subject of appropriate consultation.”

The draft guide is developed by selected representatives and experts from member states under the authority of the Committee on Bioethics (DH-BIO).

Instruments, documents and events Instruments, documents and events

[1] In March 2018, a motion for a resolution on “New forms of public debate on the ethical aspects of rapid advancements in science and technology” was filed by the General Rapporteur on Science and Technology of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. The motion underlines inter alia that safeguarding human dignity requires new forms of open, informed and adversarial public debate, very early on in the process, involving not only lawmakers and experts but also non-governmental organisations (NGOs), the general public and the media. Informed debate on scientific and technological developments and the ethical issues they raise also needs to be part of the school curricula. The Parliamentary Assembly is called upon to identify good practices and develop guidelines and recommendations to stimulate these new processes in the member States.

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Council of Europe participation in the EuroScience Open Forum (ESOF) in events on public engagement and debate, held in Toulouse on 9-14 July 2018.