A 16-member National Bio-ethics Committee which play an advisory role regarding national issues pertaining to bio-ethics, facilitate the simplification and dissemination of information for the benefit of stakeholders and the general public and provide a platform for reflection and discussion on the subject was on Thursday launched in Accra.
Its members were also inducted into office and a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed between the Government of Ghana and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to that effect.
The composition of the Committee includes the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); Ministry responsible for Science; Ministry of Food and Agriculture; Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR); a philosopher from the Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences; Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research (NMIMR) and the Centre for Research into Plant Medicine and Ghana Medical and Dental Council.
Other members are the Christian Council of Ghana; Ghana Islamic Council, Ghana National Commission on Culture and the Natural Science Committee of Ghana National Commission for UNESCO.
The rest are the Legal and Administrative Committee of Ghana National Commission for UNESCO; Communications Committee of Ghana National Commission for UNESCO and the Secretary-General, Ghana National Commission for UNESCO, who is an ex-officio member.
Mrs Charity Amamoo, Secretary-General, Ghana National Commission for UNESCO, in an address at the launch, said recent global developments in the sciences, information technology, culture and agriculture, called for the need to manage data and information on issues of bio-ethics, which also boarded on observing human rights, dignity and culture in the pursuit of scientific technological advancements.
She said it was becoming increasingly evident that advancement in the life sciences was giving human beings new power to improve the quality of health and also to control the development processes of living.
Mrs Amanoo said in relation to these pursuits, concerns had been expressed worldwide about social, cultural, legal and ethical implications of such galloping progress in the life sciences, which had generated significant debates in recent times.
She said the National Bio-ethics Committee, which included a range of experts from varied disciplines that continually addressed the ethical dimensions in the life and health sciences, would work towards the resolution of bio-ethical problems, especially those that boarded on moral aspects.
Mrs. Amamoo also said the UNESCO Bio-ethics programme had made significant marks since its establishment in 1993 and was committed to sustaining the call for the respect for human rights and human dignity through its ethical watch and standard-setting mandate.
She explained that in its effort to assist developing countries develop guidelines that would be in tune with existing guidelines, UNESCO instituted the Assisted Bioethics Committees (ABC) project targeted at 12 developing countries in six Anglophone, including Ghana, and six Francophone countries.
“Ghana is the first among the Anglophone countries to have the Bio-ethics Committee established,” she said.
Mrs Amanoo said a three-day training programme from January 29-31 was being organized for the membership of the National Bio-ethics Committee in Ghana to help it develop its methods and procedure of operations, which would imply further specifications and applications of its mandate as formulated in its terms of reference.
Mr Ato Esuman, Chief Director, Ministry of Education, in a speech read for him by Mr Evans Dzikum, Director, Human Research Department, Ministry of education, urged members of the Committee to exhibit high moral standards that gave expression to ethical principles.
He said it was also important that critical consideration was given to the full implications of human and social scientific research and their technological applications, adding that “the respect for human dignity must therefore take precedence over any other consideration in societal development and growth”.
Mr Esuman noted that as Ghana moved towards making increased knowledge an integral part of its society, it should also be conscious of the fact that the advances in science, particularly in medical and life sciences technology would be associated with their unintended harm to humanity and the biosphere as a whole, hence the need to give the advancement of science a conscience.
He commended the various research institutions in the country that had already established ethical committees to play watch-dog roles in establishing standards.
Mr Esuman called for a consensus by all stakeholders, ensuring respect for human life and human dignity, to safeguard the quality of medical care given to people.