Between now and the end of April, the Irish Council for Bioethics (ICB) is asking members of the public to complete a questionnaire seeking views on what procedures and laws would be morally acceptable to them.
Questions include whether people would be willing to use medical treatments developed with stem cells from embryos and at what stage they believe an embryo is deserving of all the protections afforded human life.
The ICB intends publishing a report early next year.
Dr Siobhán O’Sullivan, scientific director of the ICB, said the questionnaire, which features 18 tick-box style questions, was designed to be answered in 5-10 minutes but she said fuller written submissions were also welcome and stressed that all the issues were wide open to debate.
“The big issue is whether people feel that the embryo has the same status as you or I. As it currently stands, the science says you have to destroy an embryo to get stem cells out so a critical question for people is whether to destroy an embryo would be murder,” she said. “Alternatively, do we have a moral responsibility to people who are sick to allow research that might lead to treatments that could cure them?”
The questionnaire is available at the website www.bioethics.ie and can be completed online or printed off and posted.