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Political tussle over bioethics

Leading German researcher says opposition criticism of ethics council is about control over stem cell laws

Ned Stafford(scientistnews@yahoo.com)

A leading German researcher has told The Scientist he believes Germany's main political opposition party has been questioning the value of the country's National Ethics Council in part because it opposes liberalizing Germany's strict embryonic stem cell laws.

In June this year, members of the CDU/CSU opposition publicly criticized the four-year-old council after Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder extended its life by another four years. The politicians said they were opposed to the council because discussions of bioethics belonged in the Bundestag's Enquete Commission for ethics and rights in modern medicine. They called the ethics council superfluous, alleging that the council had been basically a conduit to promote the views of Schroeder.

Last week, Maria Böhmer, deputy chairwoman of the CDU/CSU in the Bundestag, told The Scientist: "Without a doubt, we need a council to debate ethical questions about the beginning of life and the end of life. But such...

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