Ethical Foundations of the System of Radiological Protection

Draft document: Ethical Foundations of the System of Radiological Protection
Submitted by Patrick Smeesters, Superior Health Council Belgium
Commenting as an individual

This draft report is essentially an explanation, a discussion and a justification of the ethical values and choices on which the ICRP System of Radiological Protection has been and is currently based. This is correctly reflected by the word “foundations” in the title.

What is clearly missing is a discussion on the ethical “issues” (and conflicts of values) that are still existing in relation with radiological protection. Among these issues, and without being exhaustive, we can underline the approach and management of the differences in risk (gender, age, susceptibilities), of the long term hereditary effects (after F2), of the radiation-induced circulatory diseases (including in relation with lifetime risk), of the effects of in utero and post-natal exposure (particularly long term SNC effects), of the effects of chronic internal exposure and more generally of the epigenetic effects. Behind these issues, there is often the ethical question of the degree and way of taking into account epistemic uncertainties (insufficient knowledge) and new unexpected findings from research. In other words, it is the question of the “degree” of precaution and of the underlying priority: avoiding unjustified causal associations or unjustified dismissal of real health effects.

All these issues, characterised by complexity and value judgements, should be addressed in an open way by ICRP in a much wider discussion.