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Health Care Anal. 2003 Mar;11(1):15-25.

Public consultation in bioethics. What's the point of asking the public when they have neither scientific nor ethical expertise?

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Centre for Professional Ethics, University of Central Lancashire, Preston, England, United Kingdom.


With the rapid development of genetic research and applications in health care there is some agreement among funding and regulatory bodies that the public(s) need to be equipped to deal with the choices that the new technologies will offer them, although this does not necessarily include a role for the public in influencing their development and regulation. This paper considers the methods and purpose of public consultations in the area of genetics including large-scale surveys of opinion, consensus conferences and focus groups. Consultation has been undertaken to enable the researchers/policy makers to see what the public do not know and plan more public education to make up the deficiency, to check on areas of concern so that public education can be used to address them or to gain a public mandate for a planned policy. An alternative and more recent approach is to find out what the public(s) do know and understand and to see how experts can learn from them in order to get a fuller view of technology in use.

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