The theme for the second evening of Alliance VITA’s annual Bioethics Conference held on Monday, January 21 was “Life, underlying conditions?”

The evening began with Dr. Olivier Trédan, oncologist who spoke on the topic of « When Life is Shortened”. He clarified and emphasized the importance of the relationship between patients and care-givers. It is essential to have an appropriate attitude of compassion and respect when caring for individuals facing the end of life and the loss of autonomy. He also dealt with the issues of therapeutic obstinacy as well as long-term hospital stay which can lead to feelings of seclusion and loneliness.

Caroline Roux, VITA’s Assistant General Delegate and Coordinator of the Listening Service examined common ideas about pregnancy with the question “How to Successfully Achieve your Baby?”. While antenatal diagnostic screening may be beneficial for the follow-up of newborns, it may also make some pregnancies worrisome and stressful when an abortion for “medical reasons” is suggested. We are invited to react to allow that vulnerability does not rhyme with exclusion, but rather with progress in health care, solidarity, and brotherhood.

The guest speaker for this evening was Clotilde Noël, who founded the association “Tombée du Nid” (Fallen from the Nest) to help families who have a child with a mental or physical disability. Having adopted a ward of the state with Down syndrome, then another severely handicapped little girl, she spoke of her daily life as their mother.

Blanche Streb, Alliance VITA’s Director of Training and Research, analyzed the bioethics decoder on the issue of “contemporary eugenics, mostly arising from the technique itself”. Author of “Dystopia: the World of Designer Babies”, she invited the participants to realize that “The world is made up of both vulnerable and strong individuals. At any given moment the strong may be weakened and vice-versa. Thus it would be ridiculous to consider life to have « underlying conditions » since vulnerability is something we all have in common. In fact vulnerability is part and parcel of life.” 

For the session “humanitarian VITA”, Stéphanie Dupont-Cariot spoke of her experience in charge of those who work for VITA’s SOS End-of-Life listening services. She described death as being an integral part of life, both for the individuals at the end of life as well as for those who help or listen to them. The way we treat those who are weakened or suffering boosts with courage and dignity those who are exhausted.

Lastly, in the section called “ Brotherhood Award”, Michael Lonsdale, actor and author spoke on “Consenting to Vulnerability”. He insisted that regardless of our physical condition or our activities, we bear in mind, on a daily basis, the joy and the value of life.

This evening 8000 individuals throughout France participated simultaneously in this bioethics video-conference. The subject for the next conference on January 28 is “Do we welcome life?”