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Scientists, bioethics and democracy: the Italian case and its meanings
  1. Gilberto Corbellini
  1. Correspondence to:
 Professor G Corbellini
 Sezione di storia della Medicina, Università “la Sapienza”Roma, Viale dell’Università 34/a, 00185 Rome, Italy;gilberto.corbellini{at}


In June 2005, Italy held a referendum on repealing the law on medically assisted fertilization (Law 40/2004), which limits access to artificial reproduction to infertile couples, and prohibits the donation of gametes, the cryopreservation of embryos, preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PDG), and research on human embryos. The referendum was invalidated, and the law remained unchanged. The Italian political e bioethical debate on assisted reproduction was manipulated by the Catholic Church, which distorted scientific data and issues at stake with the help of Catholic politicians and bioethicists. What happened in Italy shows that some perverse socio-cultural e political mechanisms are spreading the absurd and anti-historical view that scientific and technological advancements are threatening democracy and personal freedom. Scientists should not only contrast the political attempts at limiting freedom of scientific research, but also tell politicians, humanists and citizens that the invention of Western science with its view of scientific community as an “open society”, contributed and still contributes, through scientific education, to the construction and maintaining of the moral and political values underlying Western democracies.

  • GMO, genetically modified organism

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  • Competing interests: None.

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