The UNESCO Chair in Bioethics and Human Rights participated in the final event of the EUROSOL project, within the Europe for Citizens Programme, in Madrid on May, 31, 2018. The conference finalized the year-long project, which involved eight countries (Italy, Spain, Lithuania, Bulgaria, Poland, Cyprus, England, and Germany). The scope of the project was not limited to analyzing statistics, data, and the situation of refugees in these countries. EUROSOL also focused on spreading the message of a welcoming Europe.
After a welcome by Mr. Pablo José Aledo Martinez, General Director of Altius Francisco de Vitoria Foundation, and the presentation of the EUROSOL project by Ms. Clara Ubeda, Project Coordinator of Altius Francisco de Vitoria Foundation, the first round table discussion began. Throughout the rest of the morning, participants were divided among four round tables discussions, in which they examined different aspects of what solidarity means to the individual citizen.
The first round table discussion, entitled “The Solidarity from a Political and Institutional Point of View,” gave an overview of what institutions, such as the city of Madrid, have been doing in Spain. The city founded a school to train volunteers to socially integrate the high number of migrants arriving mostly from Syria and Venezuela. There has been a recent increase in migrant arrivals, which has given fodder to cries such as: “They are invading us, and we’re paying for it! They’re stealing our jobs, we can’t afford that!” and “We should help them in their own countries, where they won’t die at sea!” The human sphere tends to be reduced to a financial issue, as if everything can be solved through money.
The second table focused on the topic: “Solidarity from the Point of View of Spanish Companies.” According to a press agent, it is crucial for companies to change how they run their business by creating goods and services within everyone’s reach to remain relevant. Companies have to look beyond their own bottom line and try to find new wide-ranging marketing solutions.
The third round table discussion entitled “Solidarity from the Citizens’ Point of View,” revealed how the Erasmus Plus program of the European Union gives the possibility to young volunteers from the Altius Francisco de Vitoria Foundation to understand the importance of social work and volunteering. Being a volunteer benefits not only those in need of legal, medical, or psychological assistance, but also the volunteers themselves. In other words, volunteers have the chance to increase their capabilities and skills, something important for their future careers. At the same time, they give hope to those who have nothing left.
The project’s partners presented their results at the final round table discussion (see the video below). On November 27, 2017, the Chair had organized a public forum in Rome titled “Debate and Dialogue – Refugees Threat or Opportunity?” as part of the EUROSOL project. Experts, students, and volunteers gathered to discuss the real perception of refugees and migrants in Italy and in Rome. The message that the media delivers is often to create walls instead of bridges. An old idea which fosters those negative thoughts to push away the one who is different, who has a different background, culture, or religion. As an UNESCO Chair that fosters the art and convergence in global ethics, we have the duty to spread a message of tolerance and positive inclusion for those who are living in vulnerable situations.
How should theology interpret transhumanism? What can be said about the man’s relation to God, his spiritual striving, and his self-understanding? These are just some of the questions that emerged during the meeting on Friday April 20 during the speeches held by professors Giorgia Salatiello and Sr. Daniela Del Gaudio.
«A spiritual revolution» and a pure «technical» action are among the most highlighted points during latest session of the Masterclass in Neurobioethics, “Neurobioethics and Transhumanism.”, Dr. Sergio Canavero emphasized the possibility of a head transplantation of human beings, a possibility often met with precaution.
GdN coordinator Fr. Alberto Carrara, discussed how many thinkers disregard a specific vision about human nature and consequently ethical action. He insisted that human acts cannot be isolated from a relationship with freedom, responsibility and dignity, which are decisive elements for every medical action. The doctor should join, assemble, restore the functioning between the living body and the deceased donor’s body. The doctor could, erroneously, glimpse a mere “producing” in what he is doing, reducing the meeting between doctor and patient to an approach between an operator and an object. In the body transplantation case, one’s original vocation is to take care for the other. Every ill person directs his fears and hopes to the other person’s competence, letting the doctor enter his lives in a concrete act of trust, both professional and human.
The two interventions, “Theological Anthropology Questions about the Recent Scenarios Raised by Transhumanism” by Prof. Giorgia Salatiello (Pontifical Gregorian University) and “The Creational Destination of Man to Immortality: Identity and Resurrection” by Prof. Sr. Daniela Del Gaudio (Pontifical Urbaniana University), extended the consideration to the central points of the Trans and Posthumanist movement, and theology, in some concepts of common interest (for example immortality, life, meaning of death, of freedom, of corporeality, of the person and the task entrusted to him when God is perceived in his origins), promoting an exchange as constructive as possible. In this sense, during the first intervention some themes, particularly suggested throughout the Masterclass’s opening lectures, re-emerged, confirming the fact that, using Prof. Salatiello’s words, «transhumanism constitutes a major challenge for theological anthropology»: to embrace a vision of the human being as a creature implies that our free action is not arbitrariness (without constraints, bare of foundations); greater dependence on God implies greater freedom because God places the creature free (in the Christian conception freedom is constitutively oriented to the good). The concept of “person” is a notion that contains in itself the relationship with God, the uniqueness of the individual and, again, the free response to the loving call.
Transhumanist language often indicates a fluid, evolutionary view of the human being, together with the lack of distinction between him and artifacts or between man and animal. The individual (a term more commonly used precisely because it can underline the ontological poverty in the definition of person) is drastically reduced to the dualistic vision of himself.
Sr. Daniela Del Gaudio further analyzed the theological comparison in the light of eschatology, linking the substantiality of the human being as a relational being in his relationship with God and in the human being as integrated whole, whose soul informs the matter and whose identity is substantially shaped by the spiritual element. The body historically characterizes the person in the union through the spiritual trait, which remains when everything else changes. Facing the attempt of some doctrines to dissolve the unity of the human being through the subtraction of the soul, Prof. Del Gaudio spoke of «pneumatic realism», using Pope Benedict XVI’s expression, in response to thorny questions, such as the doubts about the identity of the resurrected bodies, if separated from the soul. In the resurrection, the soul will reshape the matter in that same form that «virtually preserves in itself», our corporeity will be transfigured and renewed on the model of Christ. The encounter with Christ marks a new life and following of Christ reveals the vocation to immortality, a call to eternal life. The Catholic Church affirms that there is a resurrection: our body preserves its identity in it and the human Ego subsists and survives, despite the dissolution of the body. Through Christ’s victory over death, which becomes a liberation and fulfillment. Here death, suffering, and pain finds new meaning and eternal life perpetuates the call to live with Christ, a communion that makes all other relationships more complete and alive.
At the conclusion of the round-table seminar, there was a debate on the ideas of the “Letter Placuit Deo to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on Certain Aspects of Christian Salvation” of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, in which explicit reference is made to two tendencies now widely spread, or from which certain school of thought seem to draw inspiration: neo-Pelagianism and neo-Gnosticism. The first consists in man’s effort to achieve salvation by himself, observable in the way he uses (or becomes a servant of) the technique, then robotics, technologies, etc; the second seeks a subjective salvation through the liberation from the body. Transhumanism contains tendencies toward both of these two approaches, «two temptations of the human being».
The question emerges: «Can the man who can dispose of everything also dispose of himself as he pleases?». This is an urgent question that must be answered to protect the fundamental rights of man so that he will be guarded, not dominated, by his neighbors and his works.
According to the Cyprus Mail Online, an average of 70,000 people trying to escape the war zones reaching Europe have been stuck in Cyprus, Italy or Spain. These countries share a common path: huge waves of migrants, refugees, asylum seekers who want a better life and thus risk everything they have, even their own life: “It is better to die in the sea than in the desert.” – Mohamed
Since last March representatives of these countries along with UK, Bulgaria, Poland, and Lithuania have been gathered to discuss the migrants’ and refugees’ situation within the EUROSOL project funded by the EU.
On the 16th April, the UNESCO Chair collaborators Serena Montefusco and Kevin Ramirez took part in the conference organized by the University of Nicosia Research Foundation, Cyprus, entitled “Refugee Crisis Background and Solutions” with the European Citizens for Solidarity (EUROSOL) project. Once again the eight partners of the EUROSOL project, including UNESCO Chair, gathered together to discuss the refugee crisis that the European Union (EU) is facing, specifically Cyprus.
After the introduction and greetings by the Rector of the University and the explanation of the progress of the project by the coordinator Clara Ubeda, the day of discussion developed in four different sessions:
“Refugee crisis: States’ Sovereignty vs. Human Rights. Debate by Law Students”
“Refugee Crisis: Psychological Impact on Individuals and Families. Debate by Psychology students”
“Refugee Crisis: Solutions and Interventions Based on Solidarity and Human Rights”
“Refugee Crisis: Towards Durable Solutions”
UNESCO Chair collaborator, Serena Montefusco was involved as a moderator in the first round table in which students of the Faculty of Law presented on the principle of non-refoulement. The three students analyzed both the right to asylum and the principle of non-refoulement under the European law. Giving an overview of the laws, protocols, regimes implemented by the EU it was possible to argue how the law is not transparent and distant from the actual reality. In other words, there are many laws that regulated the right to asylum that are not always clear and followed neither in their integrity nor partially. This concept was confirmed by Montefusco when presenting her collaboration with an NGO (ASCS – Associazione Scalabriniana alla Cooperazione e Sviluppo) in Italy that develops social inclusion programs in favor of migrants and refugees. Presenting the role that the UNESCO Chair has in this project, she also referred to her volunteering experience collected with migrants and refugee in both Rome and South of Italy where the level of exploitation and corruption is extremely high. The round table was moderated not only by Montefusco, but also by Emilia Strovolidou (UNHCR, CY) who gave another detailed perspective of the refugees’ situation in Cyprus. The numbers are frightening considering how many people have been stuck in both Italian and Cyprus coasts and shelters not allowed to obtain the refugee status or threatened to be send back to their country of origin. As pointed out by the psychology students, migrants and refugees face different types of traumas at the different stages of their journey.
The second round table, moderated by Asya Rafaelova-Eneva of the Altius Francsico d Vitoria Fundation (Spain) and Bistra Choleva-Laleva of BIDA e.V Kultur un Bilding (Germany), one of the eight partners of the EUROSOL projects, analyzed, thanks to the Psychology students, the psychological impact that being an immigrant might cause to individuals and family. Indeed, there are a lot of studies that have seen that these people are affected by PTSD that cause panic attacks, depression, difficulties in maintaining relationships, suicidal thoughts, sleeping problems and others. These students presented three different cases of three Somalian girls who were affected by these symptoms due to the tremendous journey that they take to reconcile with their families in different parts of Europe. In cases of traumas, not only the work of psychologists is fundamental to get through the fears, but also social workers play a crucial role in the process of a successful social inclusion.
The third round table moderated by the University of Nicosia Research Foundation Director Stefanos Spaneas and Beata Palac, representative of the Poland partner within the EUROSOL project, presented the impressive work and the role of social workers in refugees related matters. Students of the social work program at the University of Nicosia emphasized the importance of values such as freedom, dignity, equity, and solidarity and rights such as the right to education, work and to have a house. Social workers promote the mutual integration among locals and migrants through a multidisciplinary work (psychologist, lawyers, interpreters, …) to ameliorate the migrants’ situation providing them training courses to find better jobs position to give back to society.
The last session was dedicated to discussing possible solutions and to analyzing some programs that are already implemented and that are better the life of many. Introduced by Dr. Despina Cochliou, the representative of the Erasmus Plus program, the program could share the language courses that the European Union is providing for free. As well known, the knowledge of the local language when one is forced to move to another place is fundamental. Many people in the audience did not know that funds are not only implanted in Cyprus but also in other different countries. Thus, it seems that the European Union needs to improve the way the news is spread. Yet, it is reassuring that there are people that dedicate their lives to this type of work that informs migrants that there are possibilities and accessibility to these programs. Next, Dr. Despina Cochliou introduced an NGO named AWARE (Cyprus) which is a communication and counseling agency which is committed to raise awareness of refugees related matters. They own a constantly updated website and active profiles on social media allowing the share of the latest news and connection among different ethnical groups. The session concluded with the testimony of two refugees that had the possibility to recreate their life in Cyprus. They are both well-educated Syrians, one of whom is working as a leader, mentor and life coaching and the other of whom obtained two bachelor’s degrees in Law Banking and Economics. For privacy reasons, I am not sharing their names, but they serve as an example of a successful social inclusion.
The UNESCO Chair in Bioethics and Human Rights that bases its values on the 15 points of the Universal Declaration of Bioethics and Human Rights (2005) has the responsibility to pursue the safeguarding of human rights in the recognition of the dignity of both locals and migrants through interreligious and multicultural dialogue. Since 2009, the Chair has been committed to achieving the objectives established since its foundation: promoting the art of convergence and cooperation in global ethics through its areas of interest that allow a continuous dialogue between experts on bioethics principles.
On Monday February 19th, the UNESCO Chair in Bioethics and Human Rights collaborators Serena Montefusco and Kevin Ramirez took part in the event host by BIDA e. V. Kultur and Bildunng, at the Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence in Berlin. As part of the eight partners of European Citizens for Solidarity (EUROSOL) project, co-funded by the Europe for Citizens programme of the European Union, BIDA e. V. Kultur and Bildunng gathered different experts in the field of the migrant’s influence in the EU labour market.
The first session opened with the presentation of the Fundación Altius Francisco de Vitoria on the main aspects, aims and prospects of EUROSOL project by the European Director Clara Úbeda Saelices. The event moved on to Javier Jimenez opening the round table introducing the migrant’s influence at the EU labour market in Spain. He pointed out that there is a great number of Romanian migrants due to the similar language and that they are mostly employed in the service sector. The discussions moved on to the presentation of the VHS Hildburghausen, an organization that provides education for adults aiming at improving social inclusion and job solutions. Finally, the representative of the UNESCO Chair, Serena Montefusco had the chance to be part of the round table analysing the migrant’s influence at the EU labour market form the Italian perspective.
Serena Montefusco started giving information how institutions are dealing with the great number of migrants arriving in Italy. At the European level, she saw that soft low and funding activities have been implemented to improve the labour market and integration of migrants. For example, in 2016, thanks to the Action Plan on the Integration of the Third Country Nationals and the New Skills Agenda for Europe, it was possible to implement new tools aiming at helping integrate newcomers and local stakeholders assess their qualifications and skills. Moreover, Europe is offering significant funding for labour market integration. Yet, these funds are granted by each Member State and reach cities indirectly. At National level, institutions are responsible for labour law, social security, and active employment policies. Even though decentralized member states, such as Italy, face a formal devolution of responsibilities, the national government sets out an integration plan, objectives, and managing public employment services.
According to the latest report of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), most migrants, male and female, are employed in low-skilled occupation such as the service sector, agricultural, construction, cleaning, and catering. Their positions have a great impact on the pensions system and in raising the birth rate. It is important not to forget that migrants and refugees cannot be treated as a panacea to address population trends. These can be considered negative aspects of the labour market in Italy since most of the time newcomers are high skilled and not well integrated. Another negative aspect pointed out by Serena, is that migrants are exploited in the countryside during the harvest of tomatoes in the South of Italy. More specifically, she presented the project Io Ci Sto Camp organized by the Diocese of Manfredonia and the Scalabrinian Missionaries. This Camp is an opportunity for service, meeting and sharing between volunteers, migrants and the local community in the province of Foggia. The Camp promotes the autonomy, integration and commitment of migrants in the Italian territory, opposing injustices and breaking down prejudices, accompanying volunteers in a training course in migration, alongside the local Church and civil society to promote the meeting and integration between migrants and the community.
In the second round table, representatives of Bulgaria, Poland, Lithuania, and Cyprus shared their experience in the field pointing out the different issues that their country is facing regarding the flow of migrants. In Bulgaria, due to the different political language it is challenging to address the issue properly. In Poland, the government is against the acceptance of refugees which makes even more difficult discussion and dialogue among the population. In Lithuania, the migration flow is different from the Italian and Cyprus one: most of migrants arriving in Lithuania are from the nearest countries and the acceptance is at a good level. Finally, Cyprus is facing a similar situation as Italy meaning that most refugees and migrants that arrive are Syrian and African who see these two countries as their first aid to move up to the north countries to have a better life, jobs, and education.
The UNESCO Chair of Human Rights and Bioethics hosted a book presentation of Religious Perspectives on Bioethics and Human Rights (Springer Press) on February 22 at the Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum in Rome and the European University, Italy. The work was presented in the context of the sixth bioethics, multiculturalism and religion workshop on informed consent and is based upon research and presentations given at the third such conference in Hong Kong in 2013 on human rights. The book editors included Chair Fellow Joseph Tham and Chair Director Alberto Garcia. Research Scholar, Prof. Mirko Garasic joined Tham in moderating the presentation.
The presentation reunited many authors from the international group of contributors to discuss some of the controversial themes related to their cultural tradition’s understanding of human rights. The discussion began with a possible objection that human rights are an invention of a secular tradition hostile to religion. While the various panel members were clear in distancing themselves from an individualistic understanding of human rights, the scholars expressed the ability to adapt some functional equivalent of human rights in accord with their respective religious tradition. Many of the panelists were wary of the invention of certain rights to promote political agendas. However, there was a desire that properly understood rights discourse could provide common ground for collaboration among members of different religious traditions.
Marta Tarasco of the Anáhuac University in Mexico spoke of the Catholic Church’s general embrace of human rights language after a period of reflection that purified such notions from relativistic conceptions of freedom that would separate liberty from the truth about the good. She also spoke of the importance of founding human rights in the tradition of natural law ethics.
Building upon Tarasco’s reflections, Garcia noted that human rights in the Church is not conceived individualistically, but within the context of a social doctrine that seeks the integral development of all men and the whole man in solidarity with all people. Thus, rights should be related to duties that take into account a just social order.
Jonathan Halevy from Shaare Zedek Medical Centre of Jerusalem noted that Jewish tradition emphasizes the sovereignty of God over man, without depriving man of the dignity and responsibilities of free will. Traditional Jewish reflection would see God’s rule over man’s body as a limit to such purported rights as abortion.
What is the relationship between divine rights and human rights? Aasim Padela from the University of Chicago spoke to the Islamic insistence upon duties rather than mere human liberties. He also highlighted the centrality of the Koran in discussion of man’s duties within the Islamic tradition. Such approach does not exclude authentic agreement and shared conclusions in bioethical discourse with non-Muslim thinkers so long as some Koranic grounds existence for the conclusions reached.
Considering possible western impositions through human rights language, Ellen Zhang of the Hong Kong Baptist University noted that rights are not part of traditional Buddhist reflection. However, while the overly individualist language is foreign to the tradition, she found that the fundamental concept is present in Buddhist thought. There were also some concerns that the recent emphasis of animal rights can challenge the understanding of human rights, with support among some Buddhist theorists.
John Lunstroth from the University of Houston addressed the historic development of rights discourse. He insisted that the tradition of the Hindu caste system, while historically rending the recognition of common human dignity difficult, could be interpreted in a manner admissible of equal human dignity.
Speaking from a Confucian perspective, Ruiping Fan of the City University of Hong Kong addressed Chinese reservations regarding human rights. He wanted to affirm a minimal concept of human rights without the excesses of certain liberal concepts that multiply unnecessarily the types and numbers of rights.
The book presentation thus gave experts in different religious traditions the opportunity to explain how their respective tradition confronts the challenges it faces in entering the wide-spread human rights discourse in global bioethics. The panel discussion of the book reflected the spirit of the bioethics, multiculturalism and religion workshops in which academics draw upon the resources of various religious wisdom traditions to offer constructive proposals to the bioethical dilemmas shaping contemporary society.
Refined surgical skills and human dexterity are fully manifest in such complex operations as organ transplantations, a difficult intervention and great therapeutic resource. How should we deal with the possibility of a head (or body) transplantation, keeping the patient-person in the center? What risks originate from psychological sciences? Thanks to their professionalism and assisted by well-known cases in literature, several experts helped to shed light, from the psychotherapy’s point of view, on its plausible consequences.
The round-table seminar, part of the Masterclass in Neurobioethics, hosted three major psychotherapy schools and five experts in the field to undertake an interactive experience for mutual exchange and in-depth training on the Masterclass main topic, the so-called “head transplantion” on the human being. The meeting, coordinated by Prof. Alberto Carrara and introduced by Dr. Maria Luisa Pulito, psychiatrist, neurobioethicist and former GdN member, joined the psychological perspectives essential to correctly examine the above-mentioned surgical project. The patient’s psychological rejection, after the transplantation of visible parts of the body, is not a hypothetical deduction, but an objective datum the scientific community must consider. These patients express discomfort towards their new organ in various ways: as highlighted by Dr. Pulito, they feel their integrity undermined and consequently need to assimilate the deconstructed image of themselves again; they are sad for the lack of that particular lost reference of their body; they are animated by anguish, paranoia, sense of persecution and extraneousness towards that novelty applied to their figure; all of this contributes to the expression of that psychological rejection, decisive for that patient called to reassess his own history. Precisely about this story, Dr. Pulito, using the formula coined by P. Ricoeur, «synthesis of the heterogeneous», shows how much the narrative experience and temporality, which determine the “specific” of each human being, are dense synthesis that invests us with its features in the union between the temporal and historical permanence of the personal identity, defined largely by the relational interaction. A balance between permeance and change. In the end, making precise reference to the potential patient, result of a hypothetical fulfillment of the “body-to-head transplantation”, Dr. Pulito asks herself: «Will the impression left in the brain circuit of the original body be felt in the new one? Which synthesis of the heterogeneous will be possible through the head transplantation?».
Dr. Massimo Cotroneo, hypnosis and Ericksonian psychotherapy’s specialist, supports the structuring of hypothetical predictions, starting from already illustrated cases of difficult cohabitation between the patient and his new transplanted organ or limb. Face or hand transplantation experiences, for example, have been subject matter of the verification of the psychological and psychosocial responses of the individuals, who, although gaining evident improvements in their quality of life, had to face many difficulties in the representative identity and in the systemic-relational implications. Despite the increased functional benefits, technically healthy patients developed mental-psychological pathologies that were difficult to ignore and probably already nourished when they joined the intervention. The expert questioned the veracity of the awareness to the consent of a head transplantation, a choice without any return possibility. Here is the Ericksonian approach’s contribution, where the person resides at the center, both in the constitutive globality and in the uniqueness that characterizes it, namely considering her, every time, different from her equals. The effort to consider the set of implications that could arise before and after the intervention, allows practices such as hypnosis to work, thanks to the access to special states of consciousness, «on the deep aspects of consciousness and psycho-corporeal matter, sometimes masked by non-functional choices». The added value of the hypnotic session lies in the access to highly conflictual and complex places, often autonomously unsearchable, that would lead the patient after the intervention to highly uncomfortable conditions. This tool is equally strategic when doubts arise regarding the authenticity of the consent: the transplantation idea could induce confusion or obsessive feelings dictated by the minimum effective experience with similar imaginative representation of the surgery. The integration between subjective experience and the experimentation of an arduous and, sometimes, alienating path, as the weight of the head transplantation, is a contact that can be experienced through hypnosis and it would be, without a doubt, advantageous to support the human aid to the patient.
The director of the S.I.S.P.I., the International School of Specialization on the Imaginative Procedure, Dr. Alberto Passerini, proposeed, together with his colleague Dr. Manuela De Palma, psychologist and psychotherapist, hypothetical considerations on the implications related to the head transplantation, founded on what has already been learned in the Imaginative Experience. Dr. De Palma highlighted how much a transplantation, which is considered “routine” nowadays, already breaks into the recipient’s psychic life, arousing adjustment, assimilation and accommodation’s trends. This transversal impact induces different symptoms, including anxiety, stress, depression, which cause on the patient a crisis due to disturbances in his own body image, self-representation, identity, in addition to the already mentioned obstacles in the perception of his new self-belonging to the transplanted organ (psychological rejection). The body image, as our own body’s psychic representation, lasts despite the change (we modify the image of our body even during the pain and the suffering; yet still the identity, the biographical answer we give to ourselves, remains within the alterations). The relationship between the Corporeal-Imaginary Ego and the Psychic Ego is profoundly changed because of the dissociation between bodily and psychic images (we can understand it if we examine the psychosis cases). The muddled mental adjustment, within the transplantations, involves two phases: first, when the familiar piece has been removed (sorrow), as deprivation of a belonging; second, which is characterized by an oppressive sense of guilt caused by possessing something unduly (because it is property of someone else, who is deceased).
It’s here that Dr. Passerini’s relation, entitled “The inhabited body”, begins, opening with the concept of “accorporation”, recalled at the end of her speech by Dr. De Palma; “accorporation” is the union between integration and incorporation, using Dr. Passerini’s words, a proper junction of a sentient being; it’s that precise indissoluble meeting point between interiority and exteriority, because he is not only appointed to a body but he is his own body (this is glaring in psychosomatic patients, who falsify, in their pathology, every dualism because they use the body to stage inner conflicts). The patient, through the imaginative procedure, pours into the somatization the traumatic psychic experience, as evidence of the Self Relational Ego, related to himself, to the others and to the environment. Holding firmly the information explained until now by the speakers, how could one consider “a healthy patient” a patient whose body no longer has any factor in common with his history? The problem of identity, right from the first lesson of the Masterclass, appeared central in the debate inherent the attempts of the Turinese neurosurgeon. Even under the articulations of the psychological sciences, it’s metaphorically assimilated to a sort of Commonwealth where the members vary, but the substantiality, completely incorporated in the relationship between the parts, is rooted. The fear is to return to a patient, in order to make him feel healthy through a body different from his own, an existence strongly torn in psychotic conditions, where the bodily condensations recombine the identity as sum of history, temporality, biography, otherness and corporeality. It could be wondered if it would be acceptable a proportion of risks / benefits where, on a scale, weighs the well-founded fear of a “delirium of de-personalization”, due to the perception of a split, foreign, recombined body?
According to some mindsets, the human being could be reduced to cerebral activity and content or, by other means, to the information inscribed in his genes, from which what so many call “genomania” was born. These are penetrating linguistic twists, descriptive of a specific type of man, which the experts Dr. Chiara D’Urbano and Dr. Pasquale Ionata, psychologists and psychotherapists, scatter thanks to the psychodynamic experience. Dr. D’Urbano sums up the dense and rich picture until now analyzed both in the round-table seminar, that has seen so many professionals participating, and from the opening of the Masterclass itself. Dr. D’Urbano offered a reflection whose principle is exquisitely anthropological and philosophical, referring to the first introductory lesson on the Transhumanist and Posthumanist movements. It is useful to remember the principles since they themselves demonstrate the ambivalence on which a great part of contemporary society is culturally nourished: the exaltation of the body and of aesthetics until its empowerment and, at the same time, the mortification of corporeity in favor of the cerebral matter alone as summary of the human being himself. The patterns of attachment, the synergy between mind-body and the brain, and relationality, are examples of how life, since its origins, is a path of adherence and adjustment in view of an inexhaustible construction of the identity and of our self-understanding. “Mentalizing”, or “keeping the mind in mind”, indicates exactly the amount of literature that a good reader, as we are with ourselves, must accomplish by looking at himself in his own entirety.
In a head transplantation situation is it plausible to suppose disintegrative states of personality? Asking this question, Prof. Ionata addressed the participants at the end of his report on the exchange between the three brains of man: the cerebral one (whose highest expression is creativity), the cardiac one (whose highest expressions are compassion and love), the enteric one (whose highest expression is courage). These three brains communicate with each other through the vagus nerve, at the point that it has been shown that the greatest quantity of informative material performs movements from the bottom to the top, and not vice versa. The importance of not looking at the person as an assembly of parts and components, as if they were roommates each having its own privacy, refines the critical gaze, so that it cannot be unprepared in cases such as those presented by the professor, for example those following cardiac transplantations. The intrapersonal relational mind is the ability to make the unconscious conscious; to grasp the wisdom that flows from the dialogue between the conscious and the unconscious mind. The activation between the three brains restores consistency to our somatic relationship with the mind, which is very often paraphrased with “psychic abstraction”, while it is actually the unity of an integrated whole. If we consider the dynamism unveiled by enteric or cardiac dreams, how do we guarantee a permanence, a stability to the relationship, in a body transplanted on a cerebral brain which is extraneous to the other two new correspondents brains? A chaotic nothingness is the more plausible and realistic scenario, aggravated by a nonexistent memory, in a patient who would find himself impaired in his ability to respond to himself.
Such a dense experiential content demands in turn for a weighted metabolization, in order that a new piece can be added to the interdisciplinary mosaic that the Masterclass is proposing; but it is equally true -as suggested by Dr. Viviana Kasam- which immediately urges a curiosity about the limit of human action, stimulated precisely by its relapses. These are the questions that Dr. Kasam, president of BrainForum Italy, extended to all those who, faced with the rapid advance of technology, perceive the duty to dwell on this dynamism with a critical gaze. The launch of the second edition of “Cinema & Brain“, which this year will take place in Milan, through the initiative “Neurofiction. A plausible future?“, is functional for this purpose, in so far as there will be a debate, on the occasion of the screening of the film “Frankenstein Jr.” (1974), between the coordinator of the GdN, Alberto Carrara, and the neurosurgeon Sergio Canavero, which will summarize the main theme of our Masterclass: “Head transplantation: the hunt for immortality“. Recalling Prof. Carrara’s initial thought on the posthumanist inspired scenes presented at the recent Gucci’s runway show – cinematography, art, fashion are channels for solicitations and a socio-cultural effect quite in line with the more widespread common feeling. Therefore, through the provocations launched by the Milanese event, we will find further pressure to ask ourselves where the limit is and when the reliability of our awareness is put into crisis by the power that a decision, such as the consent to the head transplantation. The UNESCO Chair in Bioethics and Human Rights is carrying out extensive research on consent, so that the network woven by a man’s decisional freedom can be said to be protected in times of vulnerability.