Bioethics in France: Introduction

In this blog about bioethics in France, a group of Lille University master's students present a range of reports from the French media concerning the debates surrounding the ongoing national consultation process on the subject. Their English versions of the articles, complete with glossaries and notes, provide an insight into how the French press is treating a variety of controversial topics.

This spring a major national consultation process on bioethics is under way in France. The project, organised by the French National Consultative Ethics Comittee for health and life sciences, involves a series of round table discussions (états généraux) which will bring together various experts and stakeholders from all walks of life to debate issues relating to the future of bioethics in the country. The principal areas of debate identified by the committee are: stem cell research and embryology, genetic medicine, transplantation and organ donation, the neurosciences, the uses of health data, artificial intelligence and robotics, health and the environment, procreation and society, and end of life issues. In a number of areas, for example the policies related to surrogacy and euthenasia, France has taken quite a different approach to some of its neighbours and to other international partners. In some cases this can be traced to traditional ideological differences resulting from France's Catholic history. But this is by no means a simple situation. It is also a committedly secular and egalitarian society (as our last project discussed), and a country that remains at the forefront of advances in medecine and the life sciences. These apparent contradictions often lead to complex debates between representatives of different sectors of French society. They provide this project with its dynamic core.

This blog, the seventh journalism translation project by students of the MéLexTra JET master’s degree in English-French translation at the University of Lille, is aimed at readers of Mediapart English who wish to learn a little more about French media coverage of the ongoing debates about bioethics in France.

Who are we?
Seven students completing their second year ‘JET’ master’s degrees (Traduction Juridique et Technique) specialising in legal and technical translation between French and English. This project is part of a module (Thème journalistique)  in which French journalism is translated into English. It is overseen and edited by the module’s teacher.


  • Thomas BULANT
  • Audrey CAUCHY
  • Laura CHARDAR
  • Juliette COMBET
  • Euzhan GENLY
  • Loïc LOEMBE




What sorts of articles are translated?

The project has two main goals. The first is to allow non-French readers to delve a little deeper into debates surrounding bioethics in France, at both political and community levels. The second is to provide readers with an idea of how these issues are reported and discussed in the French press, and what this might reveal about the country’s news media. 3 groups of translators focus on articles covering 3 themes: birth and human reproduction, end of life issues, and new technologies. Articles are taken from a wide variety of local, national and international French journalistic sources, appearing in print, broadcast and online. The project seeks, in part, to give non-French readers an insight into the various political leanings of the different sections of the French media and how these correlate (or not) with their positions regarding this issue. Articles have therefore been selected from sources with a broad spectrum of political leanings.


Where can the original articles be found?
In every case, copyright and publishing details are provided in the translations: the original authors, photographers etc. are always indicated. Links are also provided to online versions of the original articles in their original publishing context, wherever possible.


What is our translation policy?
Translations are initially provided by groups of 2 or 3 students, one of which is the initial or lead translator. These are sub-edited by the project editor and posted online. They then potentially undergo a final modification by the editors of Mediapart English before being moved to the club section of the paper’s front page. Stylistically, the translations are relatively close to the originals and there is relatively little structural or syntactic reorganisation involved. Articles are not therefore modified to suit English journalistic ‘news style’, for example. One of the key goals of the project is to give non-French readers an idea of how the issues are presented in the French media. French journalistic style is therefore preserved in the translations. For a related reason, a number of terms are left in French, with links to a glossary article being preferred to explanatory translations. These include, for example, abbreviated party names (like UMP and PS) and titles of political offices such as député and préfet.


What are the glossaries?
There are certain terms, names, abbreviations and references that recur in the articles which require a little further explanation. Instead of providing cumbersome explanatory notes within the articles themselves, glossaries are available that can be linked to directly from the articles. Alongside translations of party names, political titles, and so on, there are also short explanations of the media outlets concerned and some of the key issues.

The following glossaries are maintained from previous projects:

Glossary 1: Party Names

Glossary 2: French Media

Glossary 3: Political Context


What kind of English is used in MéLexTra blogs?
Mediapart being a European publication, British English spellings are used throughout, as are predominantly British English grammar and vocabulary. However, the French constitution and political context being closer in some circumstances to the language culture of the United States than the United Kingdom, there are a handful of globally recognisable American English idioms that have naturally been incorporated in previous projects. Presidential candidates, for example, are said to be ‘running for office’ rather than ‘standing for election’. This contextual hybridisation of English varieties is likely to continue with all future projects.

Le Club est l'espace de libre expression des abonnés de Mediapart. Ses contenus n'engagent pas la rédaction.