Sunday, August 1, 2010

French Want Ethics to Rule Science

A national review of bioethics laws in France still has not reached a resolution. The current law dates back to 2004 and the government conducted an extensive review in 2009. The President, Nicolas Sarkozy, did not want the debate to be highjacked by "experts" so hundreds of meeting were held throughout the country - a kind of "Etats généraux de la bioéthique" after the Estates-General which inaugurated the French Revolution.

At the same time, a committee of parliamentary deputies conducted more than a hundred hearings with the experts -- lawyers, doctors, scientists, psychologists, and the religious leaders.
The upshot of this gigantic talk-fest was a 561 page report with 95 proposals for the National Assembly. The most significant of these are:

* the primacy of ethics over scientific and economic criteria

* The "interests of the unborn child" must be taken into account in making decisions about reproductive technology.

* bolstering research on genetic diseases, especially trisomy 21 (Down syndrome).

* better integration of disabled persons.

* preserving the ban on surrogate motherhood

* an extension of pre-implantation diagnosis to trisomy 21

* authorization of human embryonic stem cell research

It is likely that France will continue to be more restrictive than other countries in Europe. The raporteur for the report to the National Assembly, Jean Leonetti, told the French magazine Le Point earlier this year, "So what if surrogacy is permitted by our neighbours? If the law is determined by what everybody else does, what's the good of the law? How far are we prepared to manipulate bioethics to respond to our every whim? It's odd that we apply the precautionary principle to the environment and not to human beings."
From here.

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