After the coronavirus, towards an “ethics of proximity”, more suited to the field?

There are fifteen regional ethical reflection spaces (Erer) in France, instituted by the 2004 bioethics law. All have been shaken up by the Covid-19 and the dilemmas arising from containment and the pandemic. Many left with the impression that their mission would not be quite the same. At the beginning, “Our core business is to promote ethical reflection, locally”, says Hélène Gebel, coordinator of the Grand Est ethics space.

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Namely, organizing debates, training, whether for professionals or the population. But since the pandemic, a new dynamic seems to have kicked in. “The need for ethics has emerged as a necessity”, notes Hélène Gebel. Professionals, politicians, society as a whole have understood “That there is a need for this time for reflection” to think about the relationship to death, to the body, to disease.

Ethics close to local concerns

During these long weeks, the regional ethical reflection spaces were thus a precious resource. Grégoire Moutel, professor of medicine and director of the Normandy ethics space, goes even further. “This crisis made us creative and gave rise to new forms of organization and cooperation. “

They have certainly relied on their expertise acquired over the years, in particular with regional observatories of ethics practices, attached to the CHUs, whose mission is to report their experiences to local authorities – such as regional health agencies. But some things have changed.

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Thus, for seven months, the ethical spaces have measured the real added value that they could bring at the national level. Thanks to two advantages: local roots, and the many very concrete cases with which their teams have been confronted.

Mortuary toilets

At stake, “An ethic of proximity”, to use the expression of Karine Lefeuvre, current interim president of the National Consultative Ethics Committee (CCNE). This ethics, Grégoire Moutel judges it “Less conceptual, more concrete, closer to the concerns of citizens”.

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In the spring of 2020, it was regional ethical spaces that alerted the authorities to the disarray caused by the decree of 1er April 2020, banning mortuary toilets.

The provisions put in place at the national level as a result of the tense situations in some regions seemed disproportionate to others. Message received, the decree had been modified. “We have learned a lot from the crisis, assures Karine Lefeuvre. The dissemination of ethics has won. ” A movement that everyone hopes to see continue.


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