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The road to constructive dialogue

The National Council of Ethics for the Life Sciences (CNECV) is an independent body created in 1990 by Law no. 14/90 of the 9th of June for the purpose of "analyzing systematically the moral problems which arise out of scientific progress in the fields of biology, medicine or general health care”.

The CNECV defines itself as national, independent, pluralist and consultative.

National - because its opinions are addressed to all citizens and its very purpose is to promote public reflection on the issues it analyses.

Independent - because its members do not represent any particular entity, social group or professional group. Members participate in the Council and its debates according to their own conscience.

Pluralist - owing to its transdisciplinary composition, in terms of the members' backgrounds (both from science and the humanities), each bringing its own language, methods and ways of thinking to the quest for a common reflection.

Consultative - because, when it issues its opinions or work documents, it binds neither the entities that request them nor any other body. We may affirm that the CNECV is, deliberately, a body without formal power, which makes its authority depend on how its pronouncements are received by and influence the opinion of decision-makers and the public.

Bioethics debates wide-ranging issues. Hence, diverse entities are entitled to request opinions from the CNECV - the President of the Republic, Parliament, members of Government, entities entitled to member status, public or private centres practising techniques connected in some way to the fields of biology, medicine or health care - and the Council may issue pronouncements on diverse themes.

Bioethical reflection turns essentially on the greater good of mankind, on how technological advances may best serve human needs, wishes and dignity. Bioethics proposes the kind of citizenship in which all people see themselves as "citizens of the world", respecting divergence and harmonizing different visions.

And, despite the different methods of analysis, the different lines of thought and the diverse reflection structures, the path to follow must be always that of pluralism, tolerance, participation and constructive dialogue.

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