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Patients have their say in stem cell research

An EU-funded project brought together patients, the medical community and researchers to foster dialogue on stem cell research. The forum for discussion was based on survey results and realised in the form of a conference.

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'Europe, its citizens and stem cell research: a one-day conference' (Eurocits) is a project that organised a patient-oriented conference to provide the latest information on the research and therapeutic potential of stem cell technologies for severe medical disorders. The initiative sought to promote discussion on stem cell research and raise the issues affecting those it applies to. This approach addressed the need for a broader societal perspective and sociocultural impacts to be considered as science goes forward. Patients, their carers, health professionals, ethicists, scientists, politicians and media from across the European Research Area (ERA) took part in discussions and debates focused on the issues and challenges related to stem cell research and its therapeutic application. Background material was provided and patients were given the opportunity to ask questions as well as engage with experts in the field. Registration was free and lay English language was the medium, with simultaneous translation also available. Various tools such as keypad voting were used so as to directly involve patients in the discussions. The event was deemed a major success, with conference proceedings being disseminated by media channels. Project outcomes provide a positive example of how science and society can be brought together. Most importantly, insight gained by including patients can be used to inform future discussions and enable more effective decision-making processes in both the scientific and political arena.

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