Provision of practical information

Practical information about National Bioethics Committees has been provided in a series of Guidebooks.

1. How to establish a  bioethics committee?
In this guide, practical information is provided concerning the various steps to be taken when creating a National Bioethics Committee. For each forms of committee information is given on:

  • background
  • purposes
  • functions
  • committee size
  • recruiting chairpersons and members
  • funding

It is up to each Member State to decide on the various modalities of a National Bioethics Committee. UNESCO is not advocating a particular model of such Committee. The Universal Declaration on Bioethics an Human Rights (Article 19) only specifies that ethics committees should be:

  • independent
  • multidisciplinary
  • pluralist

Guide No. 1: Establishing Bioethics Committees. A guide to establishing bioethics committees; for ministers, policy advisers, members of professional and scientific research associations and members of bioethics committees.

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Furthermore, UNESCO has developed a Checklist of subsequent steps for establishing a National Bioethics Committee. UNESCO can also provide considerations in the light of international experiences. Download the Checklist ...


2. What are appropriate working methods?
Once a committee has been established it will be important to develop appropriate working methods and procedure in order to become an effective and efficient body. Practical information is available concerning general procedures (preparing for meetings, recording of meetings etc) and specific procedures for each form of committee. It is also explained how committees can be evaluated in order to improve their work. Finally, it is pointed out how the influence of the committee can be extended.

Guide No. 2 - Bioethics Committees at Work: Procedures and Policies. This Guide, like Guide No.1, is intended to provide precisely what its title denotes: guidance. Guide No. 2 neither proffers a mere collection of internal procedures and policies nor advocates that Bioethics Committees adopt a particular set of procedures and policies to guide them when they convene. However, Guide No. 2 suggests that chairpersons and members of the four established forms of Bioethics Committees consider and evaluate certain procedures and policies to guide them in fulfilling their mandates. If requested, the Division of Ethics of Science and Technology of UNESCO can provide advice and consultation with respect to the procedures and policies that have already been successfully adopted by Bioethics Committees and that, when consistently followed over time, have served the Committees well in carrying out their general mandates and achieving their particular objectives.

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3. How to educate and train committee members?
When a committee is operational there will be need for training and education of committee members. Information is provided about what committee members need to know. Topics are suggested for training programs. Examples of training programs in various Member States are given. An extensive list of international bioethics journals and international websites useful for (self-)education is included in the Guidebook.

Guide No. 3: Educating bioethics committees. Article 23 of the Universal Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights – Bioethics Education, Training and Information – is specifically germane to Guide No. 3. It affirms that ‘States should endeavour to foster bioethics education and training at all levels as well as to encourage information and knowledge dissemination programmes about bioethics’. This Guide, like Guides 1 and 2, is specifically intended to foster bioethics education by providing support to present and future chairpersons and members of Bioethics Committees as they initiate and continue to pursue their bioethics education. This is an open-ended process, since novel bioethical issues, dilemmas, patients’ cases and cases of scientific misconduct continue to emerge almost daily in various Member States.

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Guide No. 4: Bioethics Committees and Policymaking
A draft for a guide on Bioethics Committees and Policymaking complying with the format and structure of the three previous guides is in the process of being prepared. The aim is to have a ready draft in 2009.


Guide No. 5: Bioethics Committees and Public Debate
Plans for a guide on Bioethics Committees and Public Debate are in the making. The aim is to have a draft ready by the end of 2009. 

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