Karine Lefeuvre: All the tensions you mention can be summed up in the essential balance between individual freedoms and the general interest. This is really what it is all about when we talk about containment or deconfinement. In the balance, there is freedom on one side and constraint on the other. This is even more marked in this crisis, because we are going through a period which is marked by many uncertainties, with elements that we do not fully control, whether on the nature of the virus itself than on the treatments. , the degree of immunity or the risk of a new wave of contamination…
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Any political decision in this context is therefore taken in a situation of ignorance, marked by uncertainty. This means that it is a mixture of considerations and imperatives on which the state relies not only on recommending tools like distance and masks, but also on counting and calling for individual responsibility.
But what also constitutes a marker of this crisis is the relation to time. Besides, the expression “health emergency” is very clear. However, the risk in this emergency period is that politicians will make decisions in this “compressed time”, to the detriment of fundamental rights. However, any decision, whatever its context, must always meet the requirements of fundamental ethical principles, starting with human dignity.
What is ethical reflection in times of crisis?
K. L.: Ethics, in this period, is what allows us to restore meaning, to put the human at heart. In this context of uncertainty and sometimes fear, we must paradoxically manage to make room for doubt, embarrassment, and believe in the virtue of questioning, of collegial and cross-thinking.
This is what we did, at the CCNE, when, for example, we decided on March 30 in favor of the reopening of visits to certain nursing homes, depending on local situations. This is also what we tried to do on April 17 by reminding that the homage paid to the bodies was an essential part of our humanity, while in some places families were forbidden to see the bodies of their loved one after their death. Obviously, in these two cases, there was a strong public health issue, with a need to exercise constraints.
But there is also reason to keep. And the reason here is the ability to make decisions that are proportionate, adequate, and reassessed on a regular basis. We are in a country where freedom, which is part of our national currency, was nevertheless questioned, for a time, deeply in question. Ethics is precisely what makes it possible to ensure that, under the pretext of a state of emergency, the degree of acceptability of attacks on freedoms does not increase with our defending bodies.
How to promote the acceptability of the measures?
K. L.: We are in a temporality where politics is enlightened by scientists, who themselves do not control everything. They make recommendations that they think are reasonable. But politicians do not have to follow them: we can see this with the recommendation of the Scientific Council not to reopen schools until September. If the politician has made another choice, it is because he has balanced this imperative with that of taking into account other factors, such as dropping out of school for part of the children.
How to fight against mistrust regarding these types of decisions?
K. L.: I am struck by the example of “the call to good citizenship” from Switzerland, where there is confinement but without any compulsory certificate or fine. There has to be mutual trust between the state and the citizens. There is a real need for transparency, otherwise we risk maintaining a certain distrust. Informing citizens is a key, and the government, for example, communicates widely on the number of sick, dead or recovered. There is information.
But this is not enough. We must also give citizens a voice and know how to listen to them. To do this, there are several possible tools, which are probably not mutually exclusive. The President of the Scientific Council, and bodies such as the Economic, Social and Environmental Committee, the National Health Conference and the National Consultative Commission on Human Rights have called for the establishment of a Liaison Committee or a participatory platform enabling citizens to be involved in policy decisions, as we have been able to do for subjects such as pensions, vaccination or the revision of bioethics laws.
To these words of “informed” citizens, often involved in associations, could be added that of citizen opinion, through a Citizen Convention, as we did on the climate, with for example 150 people , that we would train, and to whom we would give the floor. From this assembly would come a word quite different from that expressed by associations. This democratic work is fundamental because it conditions the acceptance of the decisions which have just been announced. But to accept, you have to understand, be aware of the issues, in a word, be an actor of your choices.