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Nuffield Council on Bioethics UPDATE

Winter 2010     Like Nuffield Council on Bioethics UPDATE Newsletter on Facebook

Since the last edition of UPDATE, the Nuffield Council on Bioethics has published a report on e-health, informed Government policy on public health, and discussed its work in Europe and the US. From everyone at the Council, we wish you a very enjoyable Christmas break.


New report on medical profiling and online medicine

The Government should do more to help people find trustworthy health websites and use online health services safely and effectively, says the Council’s latest report, published in October following a two-year inquiry. The report, Medical profiling and online medicine: The ethics of 'personalised healthcare' in a consumer age, warns that whilst online health information and services are convenient to use and extend choice, they could mislead, confuse or create unnecessary anxiety for the people who use them.

To minimise these potential harms, the Council is calling on the Government to set up an accreditation scheme for online health record providers, for DNA testing and body scanning services to be better regulated, and for doctors to receive training on advising patients who use the internet to look for health information and to buy medicines online.  Find out more and download the report
 
Council cited in White Paper on public health

 
The Coalition Government has published a White Paper, Healthy lives, healthy people, which outlines its strategy for public health in England.  The White Paper draws on the Council’s ladder of intervention, as set out in its 2007 report Public health: ethical issues.

“The Nuffield Council on Bioethics believes that the state has a duty to help people lead healthy lives and to reduce inequalities in health, so we welcome the serious attention and early priority afforded to public health by the Government,” said Hugh Whittall, Director of the Council. Find out more
 
International engagement
 
Hugh Whittall, Director of the Council, was invited to meet with Barack Obama’s Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues in November. At the Commission’s third meeting of the year in Atlanta, Hugh gave a presentation on how the Council works, and on the findings of its recent report on medical profiling and online medicine. Find out more

Members of Council travelled to Paris for a trilateral meeting with the French and German national bioethics committees (Comité Consultatif National d'Ethique and Nationaler Ethikrat) on 2-3 December. The aim of this annual event is to share experiences, exchange information and explore potential co-operation on bioethics issues of common interest. Find out more

 
Parliamentary event on human body donation

The Council hosted its annual ‘Bioethics in Parliament’ event on 17 November in the House of Lords, where MPs, peers and others explored some of the issues surrounding the question ‘How far should we go to meet the demand for organs, eggs, sperm and other bodily material?’ The event – which was hosted by Lord Harries of Pentregarth – included a one-hour debate where invited speakers addressed questions arising from the Council’s current Working Party on donation of human bodies in medicine and research. A report on this topic will be published in autumn 2011. Find out more
 
Farewell Harald

Harald Schmidt, who has been Assistant Director at the Council’s since 2002, is leaving us to take up an academic position in the Department of Health Policy and Ethics at the University of Pennsylvania in the US. Harald has made a hugely important contribution to the Council over the past 8 years, particularly in relation to its work on GM crops, animal research and public health. We wish him every success for the future. We hope to appoint a new Assistant Director very soon. 
 
20th anniversary of the Council

In 2011 the Nuffield Council on Bioethics will be 20 years old. Since 1991 the Council has grown from one to 11 staff and published 20 reports on topics as diverse as genetic screening and patenting DNA, to the care of premature babies and dementia. To mark the anniversary, the Council will be organising a number of activities in 2011 to celebrate the past and, more importantly, look to the future. A special anniversary lecture will be given by Baroness Onora O’Neill, a founding member and previous Chair of the Council, on 19 May 2011 in London. A symposium to consider global bioethics issues will be held in the summer. Further details to follow.
 
Other projects

  • The Working Party on new approaches to biofuels will publish a report with recommendations for policy in April 2011.
  • The Council is setting up a new Working Party to examine the common social, ethical and legal issues raised by emerging biotechnologies in biology and medicine, such as synthetic biology and nanotechnology. The group, chaired by Michael Moran, Professor of Government at the University of Manchester, will meet for the first time in January 2011. More information will be available on the website in the new year.

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