HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Concordia University School of Law

Wednesday, December 8, 2004

Israel's National Council of Bioethics: Better Late Than Never

According to a recent article on, Israel is about to launch its own bioethics council, years later than originally scheduled, and beset by the kinds of concerns recently experienced in the West:

Developments and trends in science and academics tend to reach Israel after they have become the accepted norm in other parts of the world. For example, only now, a National Council of Bioethics is forming, many years later than the establishment of similar committees in the West, and three years after the date scheduled in a previous government decision. While other countries are striving to slow the advance of science, in recent years, the ruling trend in Israel is to limit generic research progress as little as possible, if at all. Almost every advance in the field is welcomed with open arms. . . .

The council intends to serve as a governmental statutory authority that oversees bioethics. It will monitor existing committees, and advise the Knesset, government, and courts on ethical questions arising from biotechnological research, medicine and genetics. In addition, the committee will be charged with seeking public participation for bioethical questions, advising committees dealing with the area, facilitating cooperation between such committees, and representing Israel in international organizations examining bioethical questions. . . .

The council is comprised of public representatives and various government office staffers. Some believe this formula poses many problems. Many the council members who were appointed to serve as public representatives also serve on other medical bioethics and bioethics in biotechnology committees. They belong to a small, yet dominant, group of lecturers and researchers who tend to favor minimal regulation and the least possible limitation of research.

"There are always the same people on every committee," says MK Melli Polishuk-Bloch, head of the Knesset Education Committee. According to her and several university researchers, this group of physicians, scientists and two philosophers has successfully taken ownership of Israel's public bioethical discourse. . . .   "It is annoying that this is the same crowd, which is there all the time in every location. . . ."

The council's chairman, Prof. Michel Ravel, and several of its members like Shapira, claim that the overlap is necessary to facilitate collaborative decision-making. They say that this will "prevent conflicts" between the committees investigating subjects related to bioethics. . . .

Was it Yogi Berra (or John Fogerty?) who said it best: Seems like deja vu all over again.

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