The French government has passed a law which will allow terminally ill patients to refuse treatment, but which leaves euthanasia illegal. The new measure allows families to end life support when a relative is in a coma and allows doctors to prescribe pain relief even if the drugs might hasten death. However, it does not authorise doctors to end lives, even when a patient asks for their help. A last-ditch effort to amend the law to allow doctors to kill patients in hopeless cases failed in the upper house, prompting a walk-out by Socialist and Communist senators.
Euthanasia has been a hotly debated topic in France after a mute and blind quadriplegic, Vincent Humbert, was killed at his own request in 2003. His doctor could be charged with murder. As well, France’s neighbours, Belgium, the Netherlands and Switzerland, all allow forms of euthanasia.
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