With German national elections looming, leading members of the main opposition parties have expressed deep dissatisfaction with the way that the country's National Ethics Council operates.

The council, formed by Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder in 2001, comprises 25 members from science, medicine, law, religion, social sciences, and philosophy. Their mandate is to provide guidance about ethical questions in the life sciences, and to act as a public forum for debate.

On June 23 this year, Schroeder extended the life of the council by a further four years, but the move prompted criticism from several members of the conservative CDU/CSU coalition, who said that bioethical discussions belonged in the Bundestag's Enquete Commission for ethics and rights in modern medicine. They called the National Ethics Council superfluous, alleging that the council had been basically a conduit to promote the views of Schroeder.

Thomas Rachel, a CDU/CSU member of the Enquete Commission, was quoted...

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