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Stem cells go public

Researchers hope the public will become educated about the potential benefits of stem cell research

(swissinfo.ch)

Ethical and social issues concerning stem cell research are moving out of the laboratory and on to the street.

That, at any rate, is the hope of the Science and City foundation, which has launched a nationwide programme to interest and educate the public in this controversial field.

Between now and the end of November, the foundation has organised a series of conferences and symposiums across Switzerland from Chur to Münchenstein and Schaffhausen to Geneva.

Members of the public will be able to discuss the morality of research on stem cells taken from human embryos, the potential medical benefits and the importance of preserving Swiss expertise in this field.

Democratic process

Announcing the initiative, Charles Kleiber, secretary of state for science stressed the importance of informed public opinion in a democracy.

"There are strong hopes and also fears," he told swissinfo. "There are certain interests in terms of science and economy too and these have to be considered too. All these things constitute a group of questions which need to be addressed."

Science and City is also distributing 40,000 explanatory brochures.

"These questions of research will affect everybody so it's something which should be decided by everybody," said Director Elizabeth Veya.

"We won't reach everybody but we hope that a lot of people will know what stem cell research is and know what the different viewpoints are and will be able to make up their own opinions."

The series of public events will culminate on November 30 in Bern. The hope is to coincide with the government's presentation to parliament of detailed legislation on stem cell research.

by Vincent Landon

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