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No decision on next focus for Bioethics Committee

The Committee completed its last opinion document entitled Nudging in Public Health — An Ethical Framework in December 2015.

This document was published in April 2016 on the Department of Health’s website, a Department spokesperson told MI. No decision has yet been made regarding the next topic on the NACB’s work programme, they added.

‘Nudging’ involves the application of public health policy to influence people to make better health decisions. Given the potential impact of such nudging applications on personal autonomy, it raises a number of ethical questions. This is the reason why NACB focused its opinion document on the topic.

The NACB document recommends that any implementation of ‘nudge’ by Government should be accompanied by an “ethical analysis”.

“When considering the implementation of a public health policy that incorporates some form of nudging, an ethical analysis should be conducted as a matter of routine, because it will embed ethical principles such as justice, equity and proportionality into these public health initiatives and assure their integrity,” according to the opinion document.

“Also, nudging programmes will be more effective if such an analysis is undertaken.”

The NACB, which was established in March 2012, has provided advice on issues such as informed consent on blood transfusion and the detention of voluntary and involuntary patients in mental health facilities.

Last December, MI reported that the terms of reference for the NACB would be reviewed this year, following a request made by the Committee to the Minister for Health.

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