Bioethics: Questions at the Borders of Life
Research on embryonic stem cells, genetic diagnostics and genetically modified organisms? How far does the freedom of research go and where are its social limits? It is the task of an innovation-oriented research policy to provide a responsible framework for scientific progress. Research on ethical, legal and social aspects of the biosciences provides the scientific foundation needed to answer these questions.
Biosciences and biomedicine are key disciplines in solving some of the greatest social challenges, such as the fight against common diseases, securing food supply or climate change mitigation. Biosciences and biomedicine are inseparably linked with legal and ethical questions relating to humans and their environment. It is therefore one of the tasks of an innovation-oriented research policy to accompany and support national and international legislative processes touching on aspects of bioscience research. Recent examples of this include stem cell research, genetic diagnostics, or reproductive medicine - especially in view of the debate surrounding pre-implantation diagnostics (PID). Comprehensive information on these topics and others in the field of "ethics and law" can be found in the list of links in the right margin of this page.
Legislative and other political decisions must rest on scientifically founded assumptions. Particularly in the rapidly changing field of life sciences, existing scientific knowledge must be compiled, ethical, legal and social implications must be pointed out, and the topics must be prepared in a scientific and comprehensive manner. In order to advise Parliament and the Federal Government and provide objective information to the general public, the German Ethics Council was established in 2008 (Ethics Council Act
), replacing the former National Ethics Council. Half the members of this interdisciplinary committee were recommended by the German Bundestag, the other half by the Federal Government, and all were appointed by the President of the German Bundestag.
In addition, the BMBF supports an individual funding priority on ethical, legal and social aspects of modern life sciences with around 4 million euros annually (ELSA
). Through national and international research projects, discourse projects or retreats, this funding enables a broad spectrum of interdisciplinary projects on current issues.
In 1998, the Deutsches Referenzzentrum für Ethik in den Biowissenschaften (DRZE
) (German Research Centre for Ethics in the Life Sciences) was established with BMBF project funds. It takes into account the increasing societal importance of bioethical research. The DRZE's task is to ensure the central availability of information required for making qualified ethical judgments on issues of the modern biosciences and their medical application and for strengthening the presence of German ethical sciences in the international debate.