The cross : In its Opinion 139, the National Ethics Advisory Committee considered that there was “an ethical pathway for medical care to dying”. Do you share this point of view?
Roger Gil: I have a personal opinion, but it matters little here. The mission of a Regional Ethical Space like ours is to give citizens the tools to think for themselves and decide on the debate that is opening, not to hammer what to think. Otherwise something doctrinal is imposed. However, ethics cannot be a body of doctrine. It is an exercise in discernment.
The bioethical debate consists in answering a question: how to do it well? It means thinking about what is good. It’s a difficult concept to define, but we can agree on an all-encompassing proposition: when I do something, does it make the humanity grow in man or does it reduce it? ?
As regards the possible legalization of medical assistance in the event of death, it is noted that the answers are different. For some, attempting on human life is a fundamental prohibition, while others argue, on the contrary, that in certain cases it can cause the death of humanity. The interpretation of what is human varies according to society and times and it is the challenge of the ethical and democratic debate that leads citizens to analyze what is at stake in the proposals and to form a conviction.
If it is really our humanity that is at stake, can ethics fluctuate according to the opinion of the majority?
RG: An ethical problem never has a definitive solution. Deliberation most often leads to an unstable compromise which can evolve under the influence of social demand, or even militant lobbying. On the question of end of lifewe see two logics confront each other, two ethical visions within French society.
The first, which I would define as maximalist, has long piloted the great ethical options of our country. Thus, in France, one cannot sell one’s blood, one’s tissues, one’s organs. How come ? Because we consider that we cannot distinguish the body of the person who witnesses humanity. Therefore, we do not have all the rights not only to the body of others but also to our own body.
Conversely, a libertarian ethic says you can do whatever you want with your body as long as you don’t harm others. It is one of the arguments put forward by supporters of medically assisted procreation for all and taken up today by activists for the right to be able to choose one’s own death. Two needs that reflect the thrust of this libertarian philosophy that seems to have become the opinion of the majority.
How did we get from one to the other?
RG: The reasons are many. There is of course the de-Christianization and secularization of our Western societies. But also the pressure of an ideology coming from the American continent which, driven by the evolution of biotechnologies, believes that everything possible must be done. This feeds the feeling that human beings can and indeed must be completely masters of their own body and destiny having lost their eschatological immortality.
Doesn’t this need for absolute freedom hide an immense fear of death?
RG: No doubt. Death scares and even more so the suffering that is associated, in the minds of many, with sickness and agony. And this brings us back to the debate of the moment: is the current legislative and organizational framework suitable for combating suffering? And, if not, what needs to be changed? How far are we willing to go?
And what do you answer?
RG: If there is to be an evolution of law, it must correspond to a need, not an ideology. Of course, there are still failures to deal with suffering. But it seems to me that this is mainly due to the inadequacy of the palliative culture, to the lack of means granted to palliative care. The alleviation of suffering is a duty, a terribly human struggle. Palliative care is a must. Euthanasia is an option, a preference that depends on public opinion. However, choosing this solution may expose you to the risk of abuses such as those observed in Belgium.
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— The Cross (@LaCroix) December 8, 2022