A world to console: That is the theme which opened the Alliance VITA 2023 Bioethics Conference.
Some 7,000 participants attended in more than 150 towns throughout France and abroad, to learn, to be informed, to reflect and to act against the current bioethical, political, cultural and human challenges to be confronted. Although it may be rich in promise, in splendour, in creativity, the world is also subject to forgotten realities, inequalities, masked or generated suffering. Concerning the challenges relative to life and the protection of human dignity, the reality and in particular that of the end of life, needs thinking and nursing in “A world to console”.
The philosopher Emmanuel Leclerc introduced the participants to his thinking on reality. This Doctor of moral philosophy, an expert in Ethics and Anthropology, has followed an astonishing life path! Born in a slum in India, he was discarded in a dustbin, then rescued by Mother Teresa in person, taken in by the Charity Missionaries and finally adopted by a family in France.
According to him, “The awareness of reality is a path towards truth. In a society which lacks references, some people need to identify themselves in their own bubble. The young in particular, need to be taught to be present because the present is a reference: it is a meeting i.e. the welcoming of others as they are and not as one would like them to be. Living in reality, also involves changing the way of looking at reality“. Even if there are laws which transgress human unity, the philosopher “suggests using silence to listen to the moral ingrained in the heart of mankind which indicates what must be done for the common good.”
“Nursing the end of life”, was the theme developed next by Tugdual Derville, the spokesman for Alliance VITA and founder of the “SOS Fin de vie (end of life) hotline service. As he explained, “Every end of life calls for solidarity, through presence, help and consolation. One must absolutely thwart the trap of the “Idealisation” of a controlled but violent death, by euthanasia or assisted suicide. In fact, nursing the end of life, means migrating from a world of objects to a world of precious relations which we care for.” Tugdual is taking part in the current debate which could result in the legalisation of euthanasia or assisted suicide by releasing his book on 19th January published by Salvator titled: Doctor, Do I have the right to live a little longer?
In charge of Thadeo, the Alliance VITA hotline devoted to health workers, Clotilde Vitrant then suggested looking at the “Heart of carers”. On the strength of her practical experience as a geriatric nurse, in palliative care and cancer treatment, and trained in ethics, Clotilde illustrated her lecture with testimonies received through Thadeo. In her opinion, “It is time to give back a sense of meaning and value to healthcare workers, to place ethics and the human person at the centre of the health system and to provide healthcare professionals with conditions of well-being to allow them to remain the guardians and craftsmen of life”.
The session ended with a deeply moving account by Sophie Druenne, a nurse in a palliative care nursing home on the reality on the general accompaniment of patients, which characterises the treatments given to end of life patients or those suffering from long-term diseases. She underlined the importance of palliative care and the extent to which it is essential to develop a palliative culture everywhere: “Everything which needs doing when there is nothing more one can do”.
In very many towns in France and abroad, the sessions were concluded with local testimonies: by doctors, carers, voluntary workers, hotline counsellors, parents etc.
The next session, on 16th January is on the subject of “A reality to be listened to”.