Bioethics on a societal level concerns the question which guiding principles, which normative framework we need for living together and cooperating with divergent interests regarding biomedical issues.
In our pluralistic society, individuals and communities have divergent, sometimes contrasting, nevertheless reasonable ideas of the good (i.e., what a meaningful, flourishing life looks like; what values are paramount). However, we must define a common framework for living together and cooperating with each other.
In a deliberative democracy developing such common rules follows the idea of public reasoning. John Rawls has defined this as follows:
"To justify our political judgments to others is to convince them by public reason, that is, by ways of reasoning and inference appropriate to fundamental political values it is reasonable for others also to acknowledge. Public justification proceeds from some consensus: from premises all parties in disagreement, assumed to be free and equal and fully capable of reason, may reasonably be expected to share and freely endorse."
(Rawls, Justice as Fairness, 2001: p. 27)
In Austria the official public policy consultation on a national level is institutionalized in the Bioethics Commission at the Austrian Federal Chancellery. The task of the Bioethics Commission is to advise the Federal Chancellor from an ethical point of view on all social, scientific, and legal issues arising from the developments in biomedicine (cf. legal basis).
In March 2014, J. Wallner has been appointed as member of the Bioethics Commission. You may find further information on the other members, on consultation results, and on events on the Commission's website.