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France opens national bioethics debate

Bioedge (January 25, 2018) reports: This week France launched a six-month long national consultation on hot-button bioethical issues. The results, involving scientists, medical practitioners, lawyers and the public, will help to shape a revised bioethics law, perhaps later this year. The list of topics is long: from legalizing euthanasia to the development of artificial intelligence to organ donation to surrogacy for gay couples to genetic engineering. Debate is sure to be passionate and highly political. The government has set up a website for the “the Estates General of bioethics”, a reference to the 1789 assembly from which the French Revolution emerged. This is supposed to inform the public and gather reactions. President Macron addressed religious leaders earlier in January and invited them to participate fully in the debate. He said that he wanted to ensure that France had a serious discussion about reforms and that the law responded responsibly to changes in technology and society. He could face polite but trenchant criticism from the new Catholic Archbishop of Paris, Michel Aupetit, who practiced as a physician for more than 20 years and has taught medical ethics.