Developing the ethical delphi


Abstract
A number of EU institutions and government committees across Europe have expressed interest in developing methods and decision-support tools to facilitate consideration of the ethical dimensions of biotechnology assessment. As part of the work conducted in the EC supported project on ethical tools (Ethical Bio-TA Tools), a number of ethical frameworks with the potential to support the work of public policy decision-makers has been characterized and evaluated. One of these potential tools is the Delphi method. The Delphi method was originally developed to assess variables that are intangible and/or shrouded in uncertainty by drawing on the knowledge and abilities of a diverse group of experts through a form of anonymous and iterative consultation. The method has hitherto been used by a diversity of practitioners to explore issues such as technology assessment, environmental planning, and public health measures. From the original (classical) Delphi, a family of Delphi-related processes has emerged. As a result of the evaluation of the various Delphi processes, it is proposed that the classical method can be further developed and applied as a form of ethical framework to assist policy-makers. Through a series of exercises and trials, an Ethical Delphi has been developed as a potential approach for characterizing ethical issues raised by the use of novel biotechnologies. Advantages and disadvantages of the method are discussed. Further work is needed to develop the procedural aspects of the Ethical Delphi method and to test its use in different cultural contexts. However, utilizing an ethical framework of this type combines the advantages of a methodical approach to capture ethical aspects with the democratic virtues of transparency and openness to criticism. Ethical frameworks such as the Ethical Delphi should contribute to better understanding of and decision-making on issues that involve decisive ethical dimensions.
Keywords ethical frameworks  biotechnology  Delphi method  GM fish  Ethical Delphi
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DOI 10.1007/s10806-006-9022-9
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