by Henri-Corto Stoeklé Ph.D., Christian Hervé MD, Ph.D.
In France, the Ministry of Health has requested the intervention of the national ethics committee (CCNE) in the face of the COVID-19 epidemic. But now really isn’t the time for ethical reflections. The CCNE is composed of doctors, philosophers and scientists who deal with the ethical issues posed by various medical and scientific advances. Ethics is only really useful if you have the time, and right now, time is exactly what we do not have.
Each country must act rapidly, politically, and with full confidence in and awareness of its own standards and values. It must trust in its scientists and its medical and care personnel, because they will undoubtedly know how to act within the medical ethics framework with which they are already familiar, based on the dignity of the human individual and justice in terms of access to care and medical techniques. It is not the right time for counterproductive discussions with those who doubt the humanity of their approach.
Today, the only audible voices are those of scientists, and medical and care staff. Their message is clear: whatever it takes, delay the peak of the epidemic curve, which is following an exponential course. We have no choice but to listen to them. However, their message may not get through to those who need to hear it, yet again due to pointless discussions leading to inaction within the system, thanks to the many choices open to us but not presented in a chronological manner.
Let us be clear on this point: ethical reflections are important and should not be forgotten. Such reflections can focus on concrete matters, but after the event, when the outcome is known. It is only after the crisis has passed that we will think, in depth, through the ethics of medical practice, about all the ins and outs of this unprecedented epidemic. Why has this particular epidemic led certain countries around the world, including France, to the situations in which they currently find themselves?
But today, our appeal to politics is: only urgent political action can count, and that requires indisputable confidence in medical and care staff and scientists, not only in France, but everywhere around the world.