Oral Presentation Australasian Association of Bioethics & Health Law and New Zealand Bioethics Conference

SYMPOSIA: What Can Deliberation Do in and for Bioethics?: What sort of health policy problems can be addressed by a citizens’ jury? (1123)

Chris Degeling 1
  1. Australian Centre for Health Engagement, Evidence and Values, School of Health and Society, University of Wollongong, Keiraville, NSW, Australia

Governments make health policy to address problems. For some problems policymaking is orderly because there is broad agreement about the solution. However, some policy problems are controversial because of disagreements about their nature, their relative importance or the best approach to their resolution. In these circumstances, arriving at a politically acceptable definition of the problem, and identifying and evaluating the costs, benefits and implications of likely solutions, become central to policymaking activities. Deliberative methods like Citizens’ juries (CJs) can be organized to bring public values and marginal voices into each of these decision-making dimensions. Especially when the problem –and, thereby, decisions as to its solution requires a deeper consideration of both values and evidence. CJs have been used to address two basic and sometimes overlapping types of policy questions:

(i) those that focus explicitly on resource allocation, and,

(ii) those about which policy options are most justifiable and/or legitimate.


Both question types are inherently normative and may produce evidence that supports or challenges both current and future policy decision-making. In conducting a CJ, researchers need to consider their goals in respect to the trade-offs between maintaining research independence and seeking to formally integrate the outcomes into established policy processes. Maintaining independence can provide valuable insights into otherwise hidden issues, but risks failing to meet the political/evidentiary needs of relevant institutions. Conversely, projects driven by policymakers’ agendas may exclude politically unpalatable community interests or values and may be perceived by community members as lacking independence or tainted by conflicts of interest.