The number of national bioethics commissions has burgeoned since the establishment of the first one in 1983. They provide an arena in which stakeholders with widely differing moral views can discuss, interact and negotiate about controversial matters. The establishment of the Brazilian committee is used as an example of how such bodies can be introduced. If such councils are to be implemented effectively and regarded as legitimate, the society as a whole should be included in the construction of the proposal and represented on the council, the council should have the benefit of specialist advice when that is needed, and the council should be linked to the elected government in an official advisory capacity. The article describes long process of planning and consultation to establish Brazil's National Bioethics Council and of eventually defining its task as advising the president on matters relating to bioethics.
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Competing interests None.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.