Public vote on stem cell research
The citizens' conference on stem cell research set up last year has now written its final report and presented it to the President of the Bundestag, Wolfgang Thierse.
The twelve participants in the citizens' conference came to the conclusion that research and therapy with adult stem cells should be promoted more intensively, since they are the "milder means" - in contrast to the use of embryonic stem cells. Half of the participants consider the currently valid legal regulations of the Embryo Protection Act and the Stem Cell Act to be sufficient; they should be resolutely represented in international bodies. The other half, on the other hand, would like to see a cautious opening in favor of embryonic stem cell research.
Citizens couldn't agree on when an embryo should be considered a human being. For eight of the twelve participants, human life begins at the very beginning. This means that an embryo outside the womb also enjoys full human quality. Three of these eight members are convinced that any killing of an embryo for the purpose of healing another person cannot be justified. Two do not want to rule out the possibility that future therapeutic purposes could also justify embryonic stem cell research. Three members see a graded moral and, as a result, a graded legal worth of protection for the embryo.
For the other four members of the Citizens' Conference, on the other hand, human quality only begins with the implantation of the embryo in the uterus. The mere creation of a genetic program by merging two sets of chromosomes is not enough to justify being human from the beginning. However, after fusion, there is human potential that requires respectful handling of embryos under institutional control.
There was consensus that embryos should not be produced for research purposes.
The majority of ten participants are against any form of cloning. The remaining two participants, however, approve of therapeutic cloning for the generation of stem cell lines.
The citizens' conference on stem cell research was organized by the Berlin Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine together with the Research Center Jülich and supported by the Federal Ministry of Research. 14,000 randomly selected citizens from Berlin, Nauen and Bernau have been written to about this. From the feedback, 20 participants were finally drawn, taking demographic aspects into account, 12 of whom met in December 2003 and in January and March 2004 and discussed with experts. Such citizen participation procedures for socially controversial issues are still unusual in Germany, but have already been successfully established in other countries such as Denmark, the Netherlands and Switzerland.