Bioethics Advisory Committee (BAC) update report for media conference
1.1 The Bioethics Advisory Committee (BAC) was appointed by the Cabinet in December 2000.
The roles of the BAC are to:
- examine ethical, legal, and social issues arising from research on human biology and behaviour and its applications; and
- develop and recommend policies to the Life Sciences Ministerial Committee, on legal, ethical and social issues, with the aim of protecting the rights and welfare of individuals, while allowing the biomedical sciences to develop and realise their full potential for the benefit of humankind.
1.2 The BAC is chaired by Prof Lim Pin, University Professor, NUS, and is composed of 11 Members who were appointed by the Cabinet. The BAC members are senior individuals from various backgrounds including the academic, legal, medical, and scientific fields as well as the media. The list of BAC members is attached in Annex 1.
1.3 Three Subcommittees have been formed to focus on the specific issues of human stem cell research, human genetics, and publicity.
2 Update on Activities
2.1 Main Committee Meetings
2.1.1 The BAC has held 3 Main Committee Meetings so far. These meetings serve to guide the BAC and its Subcommittees’ activities.
2.2 Scientific Briefing Meetings
2.2.1 The BAC has held three Scientific Briefing Meetings to date. The Scientific Briefing meetings are arranged for the BAC members to meet and talk with local experts in relevant scientific fields of interest. Topics to date include embryonic stem cells, human genetics and life sciences, and preimplantation genetic diagnosis. These meetings have been extremely informative and useful in giving members a deeper understanding of the science and their benefit to human health research.
2.3 Subcommittee Meetings
2.3.1 The Subcommittees meet and communicate regularly. The Subcommittees are working committees formed to explore designated issues in detail and to provide reports and recommendations to the Main Committee.
3 Subcommittee Details
3.1 Human Stem Cell Subcommittee
3.1.1 The Human Stem Cell Subcommittee (HSC) was formed to address the ethical, legal and social issues arising specifically from the use of human stem cells in biomedical research and development.
3.2 Human Genetics Subcommittee
3.2.1 The Human Genetics Subcommittee (HGS) addresses the ethical, legal and social issues arising from human genetics research and makes recommendations accordingly. The HGS is currently addressing issues such as tissue banking, genetic screening and confidentiality of genetic information.
3.3 Publicity Subcommittee
3.3.1 The Publicity Subcommittee serves as the information dissemination arm of the BAC. The role of this subcommittee is to help inform the public about current bioethics issues, the progress of the BAC’s work, as well as to help elicit local views and sentiments on issues addressed by the BAC. The Publicity Subcommittee was instrumental in the development of the BAC website.
4 International Panel of Experts
4.1 The BAC has appointed an International Panel of Experts (IPE) for advice and guidance. The BAC remains in close contact with these experts as needed.
4.2 The members of the IPE are Dr Bernard Lo, Director, Programme in Medical Ethics, University of California San Francisco and Prof Martin Bobrow, Head, Department of Medical Genetics, University of Cambridge. Dr Lo and Prof Bobrow serve on the US National Bioethics Advisory Commission (NBAC) and the UK Nuffield Bioethics Advisory Council, respectively.
5 Public Interaction
5.1 The BAC Website launched on 22 August 2001, is the Committee’s first initiative to promote public awareness and education regarding bioethics issues and the BAC in Singapore.
5.2 The BAC welcomes feedback from the public through the “Contact the BAC” email on the website. Answers to questions obtained from the public through the website are responded to in the Frequently Asked Questions section of the website.
6 Future Action/ Conclusion
6.1 The BAC is facing complex issues and is further studying views on the ethical, legal, and social aspects of biomedical sciences both in Singapore and internationally.
6.2 In the upcoming months, the BAC plans to canvas local views from the public and interest groups. The BAC will increase its interaction with the public in the upcoming months through consultations with interest groups and public forums on specific issues, including human embryonic stem cell research. The input from the public will be taken into account by the Committee in formulating its recommendations.
6.3 The BAC intends to finalise its recommendations for submission to the Life Sciences Ministerial Committee by late 2001/ early 2002.
ANNEX 1 Composition of the Bioethics Advisory Committee
Prof. Lim Pin, University Professor
Mr Jeffrey Chan
Head, Civil Division, AG’s Chambers
Mr Cheong Yip Seng
Editor-in-Chief, Singapore Press Holdings
A/Prof John Elliott
Department of Psychology, NUS
A/Prof. Terry Kaan
Faculty of Law, NUS
Prof Louis Lim
Executive Director, Biomedical Research Council, NSTB
Ms Lim Soo Hoon
Permanent Secretary, MCDS
Mr Richard Magnus
Senior District Judge
Prof Ong Yong Yau
Chairman, National Medical Ethics Committee
Mr Zainul Abidin Rasheed
Senior Parliamentary Secretary, MFA
Prof Tan Chorh Chuan
Director, Medical Services, MOH