franceinfo: Do we find ourselves in an opposition between two imperatives: the political imperative that does not want to confine too massively and the scientific and medical imperative that demands strict confinement?
Emmanuel Hirsch: No, because we can very well say that professionals and society in general are aware of what our emergencies are. So there is something in my opinion very untrue to say that the explosion did not or will not take place, since today it is not an explosion, it is of implosion. When you make a decision, you also make it in relation to the consequences and not just in the present moment. So, to assume a responsibility while the Scientific Council indicated on January 29 which was the necessary profile to take into account in relation to the evolution of the pandemic, there is something for me seriously of irresponsibility. We know very well that we are in a weakened society with all the psychological problems that we are confronted with. But now that we are discovering the abyss we are going to be confronted with, we are going to be even more resentful, in the loss of all confidence. For me, what is important is how socially, how to deal with a situation in solidarity, how to be with our professionals? I hear hospital professionals talk to us about disasters and describe how professionals are tied to their responsibilities while having the feeling that they will no longer hold up. We were very sufficient with regard to the expertise of the professionals.
“From day to day, there have been a number of indicators and each of us sees around us how things are falling apart, how we are deceived, for example, by saying that in the end everything is going very well in schools.”Emmanuel Hirsch, professor of medical ethics at the University of Paris-Saclay
We understand the imperatives, we are nevertheless responsible citizens.
What to think of the words of Emmanuel Macron who believes that he has no mea culpa to do on the decision not to confine, and those of the Minister of Health who indicated that we were going to “push the walls” in the hospital ?
When the President of the Republic does not make any acknowledgment of failure, let him be reassured, it is drawn up in his place. He had a formula yesterday which intrigued me: “Never confront professionals with ethical choices that have never been ours”. This is where there is a denial of reality. Unfortunately, the professionals that I have on the phone or that I meet in the field are humiliated in their professional values since they are forced to give up often vital care for people. After the first confinement, we assessed the consequences of this massive dropout of people who have not even found, for some of them, the way to the hospital. And when you are a health professional committed with values, when we question the ability to honor these values, it is an indignity that professionals today are hurt. And this is where there really is a discrepancy between the political discourse and the reality of the facts.
“One has the impression, in the end, that there are two worlds which coexist, and that the wear and tear of the exercise of power comes to this inability to understand reality, even to avoid it, to the point to build it in his own way, with elements of language. “Emmanuel Hirsch
Today I really call for us to change the software a bit, as Jean-François Delfraissy said [président du Conseil scientifique], that we are realistic, that we do not try to believe that we have the power over everything. This was also said by President Republic: the one who controls everything today is the virus. We have professionals, and not only in the health sector, who have proven their capacity for analysis and their capacity for reactivity. We cut them down, we humiliated them, we ridiculed them. However, it is they who, night and day, are obliged to compensate for a political indecision which is for me truly questioning from an ethical point of view, from a point of view of responsibility on behalf of all.
Do you have the impression that the French have somehow got used to the dead?
We get used to everything well, but I don’t think we get used to what we will call political unreason.
“There is a point where, unfortunately, the company will drop out, will be in dissent. Fortunately there are professionals who are still stuck with reality.”Emmanuel Hirsch
But behind the word of dropouts or patients who are deprogrammed, let us not forget that we have approximately 380,000 people diagnosed with cancer each year, who need chemotherapy, who need radiotherapy. And I’m only talking about people with cancer! We haven’t gotten used to the numbers. We tried to find a balance and I manage to understand that we have to arbitrate choices. But at some point, we have to say what our values are, who are the unconditional ones of a society. When the President of the Republic with the Prime Minister spoke on January 29 to say “we do not confine”, while it was a categorical imperative to avoid what is happening today, he sorted, he chosen, he has prioritized his choices. What I reproach the Head of State and the government, who live in a certain way confined to their decisions, is that we do not arbitrate the choices from a public point of view. Society has an understanding of reality, which unfortunately the public authorities do not have today, and would have accepted measures when they were justified. We could have mitigated and also accompanied the confinement. Today, we are already in psychological confinement, we know what will fall on our heads and nothing is in place to prepare for the situation which will fall like the ax. Today, we see a failure when we are not told that we were right. It is wrong even to say so today. If there is not this humility as we saw with Angela Merkel a few days ago, then I am even more desperate.
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