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UiB report on bioethics to be presented by the Council of Europe

The Council of Europe, with its 47 member states, has for years been involved in international efforts for human rights and bioethics. In particular, it is known for the so-called Oviedo Convention that outlines ethical principles for biomedicine.

Roadsign Ethics in collage with biotehnology photo
Photo:
www.colourbox.no

In 2014, the Council commissioned a report from the Centre for the Study of the Sciences and the Humanities, University of Bergen, on the ethical issues also of other emerging sciences and technologies such as nanotechnology and ICTs, following a foresight study on such technologies performed by the Rathenau Institute in the Netherlands.

This work is highly relevant for CCBIO and particularly the focus in our PhD course 'CCBIO903: Cancer research: Ethical, economic and social aspects'.

Matthias Kaiser and Roger Strand, the latter an associate PI at CCBIO, submitted their report in January 2015, "Report on Ethical Issues Raised by Emerging Sciences and Technologies". The Rathenau and Bergen studies will be presented and discussed at the International Conference on «Emerging Technologies and Human Rights» (4-5 May 2015, Palais de l’Europe, Strasbourg) which will be streamed by live broadcast. Video will also be available after the Conference.

Serious ethical issues and concerns

In their report, Kaiser and Strand outline the various challenges to human rights posed by new and emerging technologies. The report identified a number of developments within emerging sciences and technologies that pose serious ethical issues and concerns, on the individual, collective and even international level. Indeed, the authors find relevant concerns not only in the academic ethics literature but also in fiction such as the novels Brave New World and 1984.

Recommendations

In their conclusion, Kaiser and Strand propose recommendations that should be a matter of dialogue.

  • The scope of the bioethical work of the Council should be permanently expanded to cover the developments in nano-, neuro-, info- and cogno-science and technology, rather than establishing separate ethics committees for the different fields. The scope of ethical work should accordingly be expanded beyond a medical/non-medical boundary.
     
  • Better governance is needed to increase the ethical and social robustness of new and emerging sciences and technologies.

  • The Council of Europe should consider the possibility of establishing a new convention for ethics of science and technology in general, beyond the bioethical domain in a strict sense and with a wider scope of ethical issues. 
     
  • It is important to discuss how measures can be taken when the normative basis and the legal instruments are present, but new practices in the world of science and  technology are seen to systematically violate them.

  • The Council of Europe should take a proactive role in the development and harmonization of ethical monitoring schemes and practices.

Make sure to follow the presentations of the Rathenau and Bergen studies by stream!