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Listening to 'normal people'

German project asks real folks what they think about stem cell research

Ned Stafford(hn@europefn.de)

A “citizens' conference” on stem cell research was launched over the weekend in Germany and will for the first time allow the voices of “normal people,” to be heard on the highly controversial issue, according to Christof Tannert, head of a project studying ethical questions in biomedicine.

Tannert, head of Bioethics and Science Communication at the Max Delbrueck Center for Molecular Medicine in Berlin-Buch, told The Scientist that in the past, the German Parliament depended almost entirely on the opinions of experts when crafting new stem cell research laws.

“We've heard from lots of so-called experts,” Tannert said. “But the experts are privileged with respect to information and education. What we want to bring into the process are normal people and their experiences in normal life. With respect to ethics, everyone is an expert.”

The Citizens' Conference is based on a method called “consensus conference” that the Danish Parliament...

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