Intended for healthcare professionals

Feature Briefing

Citizens’ juries for health policy

BMJ 2017; 357 doi: (Published 02 June 2017) Cite this as: BMJ 2017;357:j2650
  1. Jacqui Wise, journalist
  1. London
  1. jacquiyoung1{at}

A representative citizens’ group recently recommended that the Irish government permit abortion in early pregnancy. Jacqui Wise considers how such panels can influence health policy

What is a citizens’ jury?

Citizens’ juries (or community juries or citizens’ assemblies) aim to give ordinary people a role in democratic decision making. They usually consist of 12-20 randomly selected and demographically representative people, but some have had as many as 100. They explore difficult policy questions for government, charities, or think tanks. They differ from focus groups in that participants should be given reliable information and time to deliberate.

Malcolm Oswald, director of the Citizens’ Juries community interest company, a social enterprise supported by the University of Manchester, says, “Citizens deliberate among themselves, and, as they become better informed over several days, their views often change.”

When were they first used?

The process was devised in the US in 1974 by the Jefferson Center, a Minneapolis based non-profit organisation.1 And the UK prime minister Gordon Brown set up several juries in 2007, on crime, immigration, education, health, and transport.2

How do they work?

The Jefferson Center recommends that jurors take 4-7 days to consider independently verified facts …

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