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J Bioeth Inq. 2004;1(1):4-13.

Public consultation in ethics: an experiment in representative ethics.

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  • 1W. Maurice Young Centre for Applied Ethics and the Department of Medical Genetics, University of British Columbia, Canada.


Genome Canada has funded a research project to evaluate the usefulness of different forms of ethical analysis for assessing the moral weight of public opinion in the governance of genomics. This paper will describe a role of public consultation for ethical analysis and a contribution of ethical analysis to public consultation and the governance of genomics/biotechnology. Public consultation increases the robustness of ethical analysis with a more diverse set of moral experiences. Consultation must be carefully and respectfully designed to generate sufficiently diverse and rich accounts of moral experiences. Since dominant groups tend to define ethical or policy issues in a manner that excludes some interests or perspectives, it is important to identify the range of interests that diverse publics hold before defining the issue and scope of the discussion and the premature foreclosure of ethical dialogue. Consequently, a significant contribution of ethical dialogue strengthened by social analysis is to consider the context and non-policy use of power to govern genomics and to sustain social debate on enduring ethical issues.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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