This is accomplished by submitting reports and statements etc. in specified areas and by mounting debate generating activities in the form of e.g. public enquiries and debate days, publishing of debate books, anthologies, videos and teaching material, and extensive lecturing activities. In addition the Council gives a rundown of its activities every year in an annual report.
Ethical problems arising in areas such as genetic engineering, assisted reproduction and fetal examination, caused the Danish Minister for the Interior to set up a committee in April 1984 to look into these questions. At this time an intense media debate about the rapid development in the field of reproductive technologies captivated the public.
In October 1984 the committee submitted its report "The Price of Progress", which suggested that a central ethical council for the health service should be created by law.
The bill was passed in June 1987 by a large majority in the Danish Parliament. The purpose of the act is to ensure that advice and information concerning ethical problems arising from developments in the health service and the biomedical field are continuously submitted to the Danish Parliament, the public authorities and the public at large.
The act also sets up a parliamentary committee on The Council of Ethics for the purpose of safeguarding the close relations between the Danish Parliament and The Council of Ethics. The parliamentary committee influences the composition of The Council of Ethics by appointing a certain number of its members. Furthermore the parliamentary committee follows the work of the Council and can call on it to take up certain topics within its terms of reference.
The Minister of Health has no instructional powers towards The Danish Council of Ethics and likewise the Minister has no obligation to follow the recommendations of The Council.
The Council began its work on January 1st 1988. The "Act on the Establishment of an Ethical Council" directs the Council to partly submit reports concerning specific topics fixed by law and partly take up tasks on its own initiative. The reports concerning specific topics were submitted in the period 1988-1990.
The Act on The Danish Council of Ethics
Act No. 440 of 9 June 2004
Act on the Council of Ethics
WE MARGRETHE THE SECOND, by the Grace of God Queen of Denmark, do hereby make known:
Folketinget has passed and We have provided the following Act with our Royal Assent:
Purpose and sphere of activity
1. The Danish Council of Ethics is an independent council. The Council’s operations and activities shall be based on respect for the integrity and dignity of the human being and future generations as well as respect for nature and the environment. Respect for the integrity and dignity of the human being also encompasses the early phases of human life, including fertilized human eggs and embryos. Respect for nature and the environment is conditional on nature and the environment having a value in their own right.
1. (2) The Council’s sphere of activity is the ethical issues associated with the researching and application of biotechnologies and genetic engineering pertaining to human beings, nature, the environment and foodstuffs. The Council’s sphere of activity also includes other ethical issues associated with health services and biomedical research relating to human beings.
1. (3) The ethical and animal welfare issues associated with the researching and application of biotechnologies and genetic engineering related to animals fall outside of the Council’s sphere of activity.
2. The Council shall advise Folketinget, ministers and public authorities on the ethical issues mentioned in Section 1, subs. 2.
3. The Council shall follow developments and submit statements or reports on the general and fundamental ethical issues associated with the researching and application of biotechnologies and genetic engineering within one or more of the following fields:
- Health, including reproductive technology, fetal diagnosis and the use of fertilized human eggs, embryos and fetuses.
- Nature and the environment, including concerns about preserving biodiversity and sustainable development.
- Food, including issues relating to food production.
3. (2) The Council shall further monitor developments and submit statements or reports on other general and fundamental ethical questions associated with health services and biomedical research relating to the human being, including the use of new forms of treatment and therapeutic procedures, new diagnostic techniques and new medical technology as well as questions concerning the registration, disclosure and use of data concerning hereditary diseases or attributes in individuals or groups of people.
4. The Council shall conduct information and debate-generating activities concerning the ethical problems and challenges faced by society. The Council shall make provisions to keep the Danish public continually informed about developments and about its work, ensuring that such ethical issues are made the subject of public debate. The Council can make use of public enquiries and set up working parties etc. to report on particular issues.
4. (2) The Council shall submit an annual report to the Danish Minister for the Interior and Health, the Minister for the Environment, the Minister for Food, Agriculture and Fisheries, the Minister for Science, Technology and Innovation, and the Minister for Economic and Business Affairs, as well as Folketinget.
5. Within its sphere of activity the Council can deal with issues of a general and fundamental ethical nature on its own initiative. The Council shall itself assign priority to assignments within its sphere of activity.
6. The Minister for the Interior and Health shall appoint the Council of Ethics.
7. At the beginning of each parliamentary year and after general elections, Folketinget shall appoint from its own number a committee of nine members elected by proportional representation. In the same manner, an alternate shall be appointed for each member.
7. (2) The committee shall constantly monitor the work of the Council of Ethics by means of joint meetings and similar arrangements. Furthermore, the Committee can ask the Council of Ethics to deal with specified subjects within the Council's terms of reference.
8. The Council of Ethics shall consist of 17 members, to be appointed by the Minister for the Interior and Health according to the following rules:
- Nine members shall be appointed by the Committee referred to in Section 7. Said persons may not be a Member of Folketinget, a municipal council or a county council. Where the Committee cannot agree on an appointment, this shall be decided by a majority of the Committee.
- Four members shall be appointed by the Minister for the Interior and Health.
- One member shall be appointed by the Minister for the Environment.
- One member shall be appointed by the Minister for Food, Agriculture and Fisheries.
- One member shall be appointed by the Minister for Science, Technology and Innovation.
- One member shall be appointed by the Minister for Economic and Business Affairs.
8. (2) Those members to be appointed in accordance with subs. 1, subparagraphs 2-6, shall have insight into the ethical, cultural, social and other professional issues of importance to the Council’s work.
8. (3) In nominating and appointing members, it shall be ensured that both laypersons and professionals are represented on the Council.
8. (4) In nominating and appointing members, it shall be ensured that the Council has equal numbers of both sexes with the addition of only one more person of either.
8. (5) The chairperson shall be appointed from among the designated members by the Minister for the Interior and Health on the recommendation of the Committee mentioned in Section 7.
8. (6) The members and chairperson shall be appointed for a term of three years. Reappointment may take place once.
8. (7) The Council shall lay down its own rules of procedure.
9. The Council of Ethics shall operate in collaboration with the Central Scientific Ethical Committee, the Ethical Council for Animals, the Board of Technology and relevant authorities etc.
9. (2) The Council of Ethics can create fora for dialogue with representatives of relevant research environments, commercial enterprises and special-interest organizations with a view to promoting the flow of information and ensuring interdisciplinary dialogue, cf. Section 4.
10. Attached to the Council shall be a secretariat whose staff are employed and dismissed by the Minister for the Interior and Health on the recommendation of the chairperson of the Council.
11. This Act shall come into force on 1 January 2005, cf. however subs. 3.
11. (2) The Act on the Formation of a Council of Ethics shall simultaneously be repealed, cf. Danish Consolidation Act No. 220 of 4 March 1997.
11. (3). The committee referred to in Section 7 shall be set up for the first time at the beginning of the 2004-5 parliamentary year.
12. The Danish Act on Environment and Genetic Engineering, cf. Consolidation Act No. 981 of 3 December 2002, shall be amended as follows:
1. Section 9a, subs. 3, shall be repealed.
Subs. 4 will then become subs. 3.
13. Danish Act No. 402 of 28 May 2003 on a Scientific Ethical Committee System and the Handling of Biomedical Research Projects shall be amended as follows:
1. Section 24, subs. 1, subparagraph 2, shall be worded thus:
"2) to monitor research developments in the field of health and to work towards an understanding of the ethical problems to which such developments may lead in terms of health services and biomedical research environments, and"
Section 14. The Danish Board of Technology Act No. 375 of 14 June 1995, as amended by Section 26 of Act No. 388 of 30 May 2000 and Section 2 of Act No. 396 of 6 June 2002, shall be amended as follows:
1. By way of a new subsection after subs. 1, the following shall be inserted in Section 4:
"4. (2) The Danish Board of Technology shall collaborate with other boards and councils and shall be involved in ongoing discussions with them as to the demarcation and distribution of their remit."
Subs. 2 will then become subs. 3.
15. This Act does not extend to the Faroe Islands and Greenland, but can be extended by Royal Decree to the Faroe Islands subject to such departures as may be required by circumstances peculiar to those parts.
Given at Christiansborg Palace on 9 June 2004
Under Our Royal Hand and Seal
/ Lars Løkke Rasmussen