The Council of Europe (CE) Bioethics Conference was held in Strasbourg on 4 and 5 May. The topic “Emerging technologies and human rights” brought together international bioethics experts with a view to generating discussionsin order to “find the middle ground between innovation and precaution”, according to Jean-Yves Le Déaut, National Assembly Member and President of the Parliamentary Office for the Evaluation of Scientific and Technological Choices.
Organised by the CE Bioethics Committee (DH-BIO), the conference set out “to explore the way in which emerging technologies (such as nanotechnology, information technology, bio food technology and cognitive science) are changing society and potentially impacting human rights”.
Presentations included examinations on ethical questions surrounding “new medical technologies”, “massive data collection”, “equitability of access to new technologies”and “methods of governance surrounding innovation and research”.
Hugh Whittall, Director of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics in the United Kingdom summarised the conference discussions as showing that: “Privacy, as a fundamental value, is under pressure”. “This cannot be just a conversation between political elites (…) There has to be a wider participation”,he stressed. Rinie van Est from the Rathenau Institute also emphasised the importance of “giving meaning to technological citizenship”.
The DH-BIO will use the outcome of the conference to draft a “white paper with recommendations for emerging technologies and the ensuing challenges facing human rights”. The date for the drafting of this paper has not been set.
It should be noted that numerous participants called to “extend the areas of the (Bioethics) Committee beyond biomedicine and human rights”and to incorporate “emerging technologies that exceed the medical field”.