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Council Awarded For Pre-Birth Testing Project

1 September 2008

Bioethics Council Awarded For Pre-Birth Testing Project

Toi te Taiao: the Bioethics Council is delighted that its pre-birth testing project has been given special recognition for Project of the Year at the International Association for Public Participation Core Values Awards in Scotland last week.

As an international leader in public participation, the Association recognises work being undertaken by various organisations which reflect the interests and concerns of potentially affected people and entities. The Bioethics Council was nominated for the significant work undertaken to engage the New Zealand community on pre-birth testing issues.

"We are delighted that our deliberative form of engagement on this important and emotional issue has been recognised in such a way," said Chair of the Bioethics Council Martin Wilkinson.

"The desire to have a healthy baby is universal among expectant parents, but views are mixed on the extent to which pre-birth testing helps - and should be allowed to help - achieve this outcome.

"It was extremely encouraging to see just how many New Zealanders were willing to give up their time and engage with others on this issue of pre-birth testing. It was also testament to the interest surrounding the issue."

The project first brought members of the public together to frame the issues. Four approaches emerged reflecting different and competing ways of dealing with pre-birth testing. The next stage was the public deliberation. By weighing up the costs and consequences of their choices, participants were asked to look beyond individual views and work towards finding a common direction.

The Bioethics Council hosted 18 deliberative events around the country, including four hui and one fono, and an interactive website designed to encourage deliberation. An independent evaluation found that the deliberative process was very well received by participants.

"By engaging with so many New Zealanders in the way that we did, we were able to bring people with very different views, concerns and values together, learn from each other and work towards a collective way forward around the issue of pre-birth testing," Martin Wilkinson said.

More information about the Bioethics Council and its work is available on its website: www.bioethics.org.nz.

ENDS

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