About Us


Developments in health technologies have stimulated considerable public debate around complex end-of-life issues, such as advance directives withholding or withdrawing life-prolonging and life-sustaining treatment. Similarly, rapid advances in the areas of human fertilisation, pre-implantation genetic testing, stem cell research and the cloning of human embryos have raised a series of bioethical questions.

Against this challenging background the Scottish Council on Human Bioethics was formed in 1997. It is an independent, non-partisan, non-religious Scottish charity composed of doctors, lawyers, psychologists, ethicists and other professionals from disciplines associated with medical ethics. The principles to which the SCHB subscribe are set out in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights which was adopted and proclaimed by the UN General Assembly by resolution 217A (III) on 10 December 1948.

The Scottish Council on Human Bioethics is a limited company (No. SC247239), and recognised as a charity by the Inland Revenue (Reg. No. SC 034372).

Core purposes

  1. To collect and evaluate evidence and information relating to ethical issues from which to inform public debate.
  2. To engage, assist and advise legislators, fellow professionals and other interested parties with ethical analysis and comment on these issues.
  3. To respond appropriately to media interest by the release of relevant and reliable information and comment.
  4. To encourage Scottish society to engage in ethical discussion of relevant topics in medicine and biology.

SCHB activity

The SCHB prepares briefing materials for Parliament and press on a range of bioethical issues. Members contribute to television and radio debates, give evidence to Committees of the Scottish and European Parliaments, and draft amendments to legislation, some of which have been debated and voted upon. Consultative Documents are regularly received and responded to by expert working groups.

SCHB is active in the following areas:

  • Abortion
  • Cloning
  • Contraception
  • Ethics & bioethics
  • Euthanasia
  • Genetics
  • Incapacity
  • Infertility
  • Living wills
  • Morning-after pill
  • Physician-assisted suicide
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal testing
  • Sex education
  • Stem cells
  • Suicide
  • Transplantation

Structure of the Scottish Council on Human Bioethics

The Scottish Council on Human Bioethics is composed of a Board of Directors and its principle Ethics Committee which meets regularly throughout the year. This Committee is also advised by Working Groups on specific topics which are established when necessary.


Chair, Professor Robert Minns, Emeritus Professor and Hon. Professorial Fellow, Paediatric Neurology

Vice Chair, Dr. Anne Williams, General Practitioner

Treasurer, Dr. Susan Holloway, Retired Biomedical Geneticist

Ms. Lesley Ward, LLB, Legal Convenor, Mental Health Tribunal

Dr. Calum MacKellar, Director of Research, SCHB

Dr. Rosemary Tierney, General Practitioner

Dr. Marian Aldhous, Biomedical Researcher

Ms. Audrey Sheridan, Civil Servant

Honorary Directors

Honorary Vice Chair, Rev. W. D. Brown, MA, Retired Church of Scotland Minister