Bioethic experts versus policies: a fool’s game

Publié le 21 Jul, 2014

In the Governance journal and BioEdge, Annabelle Littoz-Monet* emphasises the fact that, although bioethicists are authorised to advise policy makers independently in order to ensure that the latter make the “right” decisions, she notes that, in reality, the situation is completely different. In fact, very often, bureaucrats call on ethical experts to reach their goal when they are confronted by such and such a controversy as in the case of genetically modified organisms or research into embryo stem cells: 

Establishing ethical experts as a new category of expertise alongside scientific experts actually bolsters the technocratic domain in areas where it is contested, thus reinforcing the authority of experts and bureaucrats in the policy process rather than democratic control”


One blatant example in this area was the controversy surrounding embryo research in 2005: Although a number of Members of the European Parliament and even Member States were opposed to it, “by shifting the debate away from irreconcilable ethical positions back towards the technicalities of the issue, the opinion of the [European Group on Ethics in Science and New Technologies] designed a workable policy scenario… By putting the ‘ethics’ experts at the core of the policy process, the European Commission succeeded in retechnocratising the mode of conflict settlement despite the blatant politicization of the policy debate“. 


* Annabelle Littoz-Monet works at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva

 Bioedge (Michael Cook) 18/07/2014

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