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The EGE has now completed a series of meetings with presidents or secretaries of national ethics committees or similar bodies in the new member states. All new member states except Poland have a national ethics committee, but such a committee is in the process of being created also in Poland. In the new member states there are both differences and similarities between these bodies in terms of composition, resources, frequency of meetings, the way the minutes or reports of the committees are made public. For example, the number of members varies from about 12 to almost twice that number, the frequency of meetings varies from two to four times a year to meetings at least once every month. The resources vary from none to office and salary for two secretaries. One committee finances its work partly by fees for opinions given to pharmaceutical companies. Some committees have a website and publish a news letter, whereas the minutes of other committees are not published.
The similarities are as interesting as the differences. Several common problems emerged. A main obstacle for many committees is the lack of adequate resources. Another is the lack of ethical debate in the scientific community and in the general public. These problems are not independent of each other: without adequate resources it becomes difficult to publish opinions and take part in activities which would help to stimulate the ethics debate in the country. This could create a negative spiral in that the lack of debate is used as a reason for not allocating resources to the national ethics committee. Another problem facing several committees is the close attachment to one particular ministry. If the committee were attached to several governmental key institutions, the committee would more easily be perceived as independent, rather than as the prolonged arm of a particular ministry.

Additional information

Authors: No author stated, European Group on Ethics in Science and New Technologies to the European Commission, Brussels (BE)
Bibliographic Reference: Luxembourg: Office for Official Publications of the European Communities, 2004, 25 pp Free of charge
Availability: The paper version can be ordered online and the PDF version downloaded at:
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