There is a public university hospital where a wine cellar has been set up for some patients. The reason why this was done is hidden in the importance of some small pleasures in life, even in the most difficult moments.
Clermont-Ferrand University Hospital is a public institution somewhere between central and southern France, built between the renowned wine regions of Bordeaux, Sancerre and the Loire Valley. What is famous for is the palliative care unit, which hosts dying patients, and the pioneering leader Dr. Virginie Guastella.
Dr. Guastella put a wine bar in the unit, not the kind of wine bar we most know. Its sole purpose is to give pleasure to patients who are at the end of their lives or who are suffering a lot.
A cellar with wine inside the hospital
Dr. Guastella joined the hospital staff as a palliative care physician in 2003 and quickly learned that there is so much more to offer patients besides painkillers: care, time, a nice chat, and some small pleasures. “In palliative care, there is always something to do. “” I’m sorry, but nothing is happening “does not apply,” she said. “Why should all the good things stop because you are being treated?” he wonders.
In 2013, Dr. Guastella met Catherine Le Grand-Sébille, an anthropologist at the University of Lille School of Medicine, who studied the relationship between people and wine, even at the end of life. To date, she has conducted 200 interviews with physicians, health care professionals, non-medical caregivers, families, and patients about maintaining sensory pleasure. What they had told her was enough to convince Dr. Guastella, now head of the palliative care unit, asks the director for a small wine cellar inside the hospital.
Her goal, of course, was not to addict patients who were in the final stages, nor to make them drink too much. He wanted, as he said, to give them a sense of dignity and regularity in the latter.
Desires and preferences are related to life
François’s wife, a man who died at the age of 73 from kidney cancer, will never forget the moment she brought a glass of red wine with her meal at the hospital, as she wished. “His eyes lit up. “At that time, my husband was not sick,” she said.
Researchers in the field of neuroscience had by then made important discoveries regarding the functions of the brain that regulate our desires and preferences. Our desires (the “I want”) relate to the needs of our survival, namely food, drink (water) and sleep. Our preferences (“I like them”) relate to all those special ways in which we satisfy our above needs: our favorite foods and drinks, even the pillow we prefer.
Simply put, what neuroscientists call desires (“I want”) are actually our needs. But what they call preferences (“I like”) are what make us happy.
Pleasure in life has two types, according to philosophy: bliss and hedonism. Happiness refers to the meaning of life, to why it is worth living. Hedonism has to do with all those little pleasures, the wine, the sweet, the beautiful smells, that through the senses make our life bearable. These are the “likes” that satisfy our “wants”.