Launched on this past January 18th, the organizers for the French National Consultations on Bioethics gave their first conclusions on the citizen contributions on April 4th. However, the public only has until April 30th to make online comments on the website (etatsgenerauxdelabioéthique.fr.).

According to the National Consultative Ethics Committee (known in French as “CCNE”), 9,700 Internet users have already commented with 24,000 discussion points. The organizers hope to double this number by the end of the month, while simultaneously fearing too many activists’ will respond, especially regarding the most controversial subject: ART. In total, the “CCNE” estimates that 20,000 people will have taken part in approximately 300 regional meetings.

Several events are scheduled for May and June:

  • a citizen’s committee of 22 civilians will publish a report on clinical genomics and genetic testing; and on the end-of-life.
  • 3 scientific meetings on genomics, embryo research and neuroscience will be held
  • the CCNE will submit its conclusions on the citizens’ contributions to the OPCEST on June 4th, and publish its recommendations in June or July on the subjects to be included in the bioethics law and on the work of the group who focused on artificial intelligence and health.

Tugdual Derville, Alliance VITA’s General Delegate, who was officially invited by the CCNE to speak on March 8, comments on the progress report:

What is especially obvious at this stage is the majority of citizens who are unwilling to change the legislation, whereas those changes had been presented as inexorable. Whether on the official website or in regional public meetings on ethics, the majority of the contributors defend the idea of keeping protective boundaries for those who are most vulnerable. This includes palliative care against the prohibition to kill, protecting children against the idea of a right to have a child, misgivings for experiments on human embryos, and reasonable use of artificial intelligence etc.

Whether the debates were calm or agitated there is more conviction for protecting those who are most vulnerable. This is an encouragement. The President of the Republic cannot ignore this. Nor can he ignore the small contribution from those who are pleading for the same transgressions that we are contesting.

What these National Consultations already demonstrate is that the public demand for these transgressions is very small, and is an ultra-minority population. And that those who are fighting against those transgressions show strong, well-reasoned arguments. We have heard some criticism about the presence of citizens with firm convictions. In our opinion this is a positive sign that despite the organizers’ shortcomings and lack of resources, the process is dynamic and allows citizens to react and freely express their opinions. The President of the Republic, who promised a peaceful debate, cannot ignore this. 

In the coming days we’ll be taking initiatives to shed light on this major debate, prior to its legislative stage.