December 2020 Pulse
In December 2000, the Singapore Cabinet formed the Bioethics Advisory Committee (BAC) at the initiative of the then-Deputy Prime Minister Dr Tony Tan. The BAC is an independent national advisory body responsible for examining the ethical, legal and social issues arising from biomedical research in Singapore. Since its founding, the BAC has consulted different sectors of society, including leaders of faith communities, on a wide range of biomedical research and initiatives.
The National Council of Churches of Singapore (NCCS) has participated in every consultation conducted by the BAC. It has produced substantial written responses and taken part in closed-door discussions. The issues that the Council has engaged with the BAC include:
- Research on human stem cell
- Human tissue research
- Genetic testing and research
- Donation of human eggs for research
- Human-animal combinations for biomedical research
- Use of personal information for biomedical research
- Mitochondrial Replacement Therapy
Besides these topics, the Council has also addressed other issues in biomedical ethics through the years which were not within the remit of the BAC. These include:
- The Organ Transplant Act
- Human Organ Sale
- Social Egg Freezing
- Advanced Maternity Age in IVF
To mark its 20th anniversary, the BAC will be holding a conference next year on the theme, ‘Bioethics Future – Empowering Our Next Generation’. Religious leaders have been invited to participate in a panel discussion at this conference.
Perhaps this is also an appropriate occasion for the Christian community in Singapore to reflect on some of the challenges in the area of biomedical ethics that could lie beyond the horizon. This article provides a brief sketch of some of the issues that the Council will have to address in the months and years ahead.
I have arranged these topics in two main sections. The first section deals with specific issues that developing bio- medical and technological research and application will present and that require rigorous public debate. The second section addresses older issues and themes which must be revisited because of recent developments in research and therapeutic applications.
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Dr Roland Chia is Chew Hock Hin Professor at Trinity Theological College (Singapore) and Theological and Research Advisor of the Ethos Institute for Public Christianity.