The Belgian Advisory Committee on Bioethics was established by the co-operation agreement of 15 January 1993 (FR-NL version) signed by the federal Government, the French-speaking Community, the Flemish Community, the German-speaking Community and the Joint Commission for Community Matters.
The Committee is completely independent of the authorities that created it.
The Committee has a twofold mission:
- To provide opinions on the problems raised by research and research applications in the fields of biology, medicine and health care. The ethical, social and legal aspects of these problems are studied, particularly from the angle of respect for human rights;
- To inform the public and the government authorities about these problems.
In order to fulfil this mission, the Committee is legally obliged to:
- make an annual report of its activities (Fr version)
- organize a biennial public conference (events)
- manage a documentation centre
The Committee's information tasks also involve:
- keeping the press informed of the Committee's opinions
- developing educational resources
- running and updating this website.
The Committee is composed of 43 members (including 8 in an advisory capacity) and 35 substitute members.
Attention is paid to a balanced representation of the various ideological and philosophical movements, to a balanced number of men and women, and to an equal number of Dutch- and French-speaking members, in the composition of the Committee. The same applies to a balance between members from the scientific and medical communities, on the one hand, and those from the philosophical, legal and life science communities, on the other hand.
The members of the Committee are appointed for a period of 4 years.
The term of the present members (Fr and Nl version) runs from 20 may 2019 to 19 may 2023.
The Committee has a Bureau composed of 4 vice-chairpersons chosen from among its members; each vice-chair acts as chairperson for one year.
For the current composition of the bureau, see the section “Bureau”.
Seventy-five per cent of the Committee’s operational costs are borne by the federal authorities; the remaining 25 per cent are divided equally amongst the Communities and the Joint Commission for Community Matters.
The Committee has a Secretariat consisting of 6 civil servants seconded from the clerical staff of the signatories to the Agreement. These civil servants are recruited following a call for candidates published in the Belgisch Staatsblad/Moniteur belge. The Secretariat carries out technical and administrative tasks.
Who can request an opinion from the Committee?
The Committee is required to give its opinion at the request of the chairs of the various parliaments or of any member of their governments. Research institutes, hospitals, tertiary education institutions and local ethical committees connected to hospitals or universities or approved by any of the Communities, may also submit a request.
The Committee may also give advice on its own initiative, regarding a question lying within its competence.
In most cases, the Committee entrusts the task of preparing the opinion to a select commission. The latter’s composition reflects that of the Committee.
The select committees may rely on outside experts for some specific hearing as well as permanent experts. The select commission makes a report of its work to the Committee together with a draft opinion. The discussions at the plenary session of the Committee are intended to enrich the debate. It is possible to suggest amendments, that the select commission will take into account in its final opinion.
The meetings of the Committee and of the select committee are not open to the public.
In principle, the Committee expresses its opinion within six months following a request.
The approved opinions reflect the various positions expressed.
Secretary of the Belgian Advisory Committee on Bioethics:
Avenue Galilée 5/2