Bioethics

Since 2009, the Seine-Saint-Denis County Council has been backing “la Culture et l’Art au Collège (CAC)”. This project is based to a large extent on the presence in class for several weeks (40h) of an artist or scientist whose mission is to engage the students in a process of research and creation. 

 

Tutors: Anna Mutini-Calvitti, Jean Hache, Claire Larroque/ philosophers

Project manager: Anna Mezey

 

Objectives:
Which advances in science can claim to be bioethical and can there be common rules to judge them?  Will science and techniques make us better and can they? With the help of a philosopher making bioethics the centrepiece of this project, the students examine both the progress announced by research scientists and the assumed upheavals and values of our society in these matters.

Workshop:
We are all philosophers
The students are given a series of texts addressing bioethics from different angles: literary (“Réparer les vivants” by Maylis de Kerangal), newspaper articles (press reviews of the Vincent Lambert case), studies (documentary extract about medically-assisted reproduction), etc. After discussing the issues, the students pick out certain themes and elaborate them. They then identify the experts and institutions involved in these issues.  

From science to ethics
The classes decide upon a central question that they examine in more depth by surveying professionals or activist organisations, and by gathering accounts from friends and family, etc. At this stage, for example, one class examined the question “Are we in the process of handing over our ‘decision-making power’ to intelligent machines?” while another class decided to tackle the question of “biomedical research on live animals”.

Public speaking
The final phase is devoted to preparing a forum to conclude the project. The students summarise the analyses they have been conducting for several months, picking out points for discussion, pointing out doubts, etc., and make a short presentation that is accessible for other classes. 

Outcome:
On 24th May 2016 in the Biocitech lecture hall, the four classes gathered for a discussion forum. Each class had 15 minutes to make their presentation, which was followed by a debate with the audience (including guest research scientists). The discussions included “Augmented Human Beings”, “Will Human Beings Become Eternal?” and “Organ Transplants”. The meeting was chaired by Philippe Descamps, philosopher and bioethics expert.    

Acknowledgements: Jean-François Boussard, Director of Biocitech.

Outings:
- Musée de l’homme: guided tour with the theme “Who are we, where do we come from and where are we going?”  
- Biocitech, Romainville: trip to an innovation business nursery (biotechnology and health)
- Gabriella Pàsti: Doctor in biology, Institut Génétique Biologie Moléculaire Cellulaire, Strasbourg
- Oriane Blanchet: Coordinating nurse for organ and tissue harvesting, Centre Hospitalier, Saint-Denis
- Didier Cournelle: legal expert and Vice President of the Association Française Transhumaniste-Technoprog,
- Philippe Descamps: philosopher and bioethics expert.

Participating schools:
- Class 4e6, Collège Maximilien Robespierre, Epinay-sur-Seine
- Class 3e DP, Collège Edouard Herriot, Livry-Gargan
- Class 3e6, Collège Jean Vilar, La Courneuve
- Class 3e3, Collège Lucie Aubrac, Livry-Gargan