Researchers at the Welsh Institute for Health and Social Care at the University of Glamorgan have set up a national Citizens' Jury to consider ethical issues surrounding human genetic engineering.
The jury, believed to be the first of its kind, will be made up of ordinary members of the public. It will be asked to consider the ethical limits of human genetic engineering, where technology now means certain genetic diseases can be tested for and even potentially mitigated against.
The launch of the public jury coincides with next month's proposed inaugural meeting of the government's new Human Genetics Advisory Commission. Under the chairmanship of Sir Colin Campbell, vice chancellor of Nottingham University (see below), this is expected to provide advice on everything from confidentiality of human genetic data to its use in employment and insurance decisions.
According to a spokesman for the University of Glamorgan, the idea of a jury is to give the public the opportunity to participate directly in decision making.
He said: "In this country the public rarely has an opportunity to participate directly in decision making. In the US and Germany, this gap has been addressed through Citizens' Juries.
"Soon doctors will be able to predict people's chances of developing some diseases and there may be ways of postponing or avoiding them altogether.
"For the first time in Wales, there will be a chance for the public to express opinions on an issue of profound importance for the future."
The jury will be held in November in Cardiff, after local discussion groups in Wales decide what questions and issues need to be brought before it.