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Human-research law takes shape

The cabinet says it wants to introduce clearer guidelines for doing human research to protect human dignity without hindering scientific progress.

It has sent a draft law to parliament for approval. The proposal spells out how the principles of a new constitutional article on human research are to be implemented.

Lawmakers approved the article in September. However, this change to the constitution is subject to a nationwide referendum due to take place in March 2010.

The cabinet said the law, while protecting human dignity, should also offer the country's scientific community the necessary conditions to develop treatments for diseases like cancer and Alzheimer's.

Nationwide regulations already govern some areas of human research, including reproductive medicine and genetics, but the 26 cantonal authorities are autonomous in most cases.

The Federal Health Office defines human research as not only that involving persons but also experiments on human embryos and foetuses and biological material of human origin such as tissue, cells and bodily fluids.

The latest move by cabinet is also designed to put Swiss law more into line with international agreements, such as the Council of Europe's Convention on Human Rights and Biomedicine.

swissinfo.ch and agencies


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