- Sriram Chakravarthi Doctoral candidate at the Faculty of Law, National University of Singapore
In 2000, Singapore set up a national 'Bioethics Advisory Committee' (BAC) to examine the ethical, moral, social and legal implications of life sciences and biotechnology. On June 21st 2002, after months of deliberations and exhaustive consultations with religious, medical and professional groups, the committee as part of its recommendations signaled its go-ahead for scientists to proceed on revolutionary stem-cell research.
However, the committee has been careful not to give an unqualified go-ahead for stem-cell research, but has instead, made a call for strict guidelines, a regulatory framework with sanctions to punish errant scientists and a statutory body to enforce this. In doing so, the committee has sought to strike a delicate balance between the commercial promises that further research and product development in this area will bring and the ethical considerations that have been raised by religious and social groups.
The committee's recommendations will no doubt hope to spur activity in the high growth Biotech sector which has received millions of dollars in public fund investments and research. The recommendations will also allow Singapore to maintain its competitive edge as a leading manufacturer of embryonic stem cells worldwide. The committee however, has not fallen prey to the commercial rewards that the sector promises, but has also incorporated effectively, the ethical considerations raised by social and religious groups in furthering embryonic stem cell research and development.
This paper takes a look at the path adopted by Singapore in charting a course that permits further research and development, that is not only accepted internationally, but is also morally and ethically clean.