May 24, 2024

French Senate rejects euthanasia

Thoughtful opposition in France

Francois Fillon

After a passionate debate the French Senate
has scuppered a bill allowing physician-assisted suicide. The margin was
convincing – 170 to 142.

The opposition of the prime minister,
François Fillon, seems to have been an important element in the result.
In an
in Le Monde
in late January, Mr Fillon warned against haste in a
thoughtful speech (poorly translated in great haste by the editor):

“This scheme does not offer the necessary guarantees. The proliferation
of definitions of the end of life and procedures introduces ambiguities
sources of legal uncertainty. The implementation of the act of
euthanasia is
itself surrounded by conditions that are imprecise. The proposed
provides no explicit obligation to consult with or even to inform the

“Most importantly, such a scheme seems to be very dangerous. In the
proposed legislation, control of actions would be made after the fact
by a
committee. Such a mechanism would certainly create a diversity of
from one region or territory to another. While it is dangerous for the
of people at the end of life, this scheme would also affect caregivers.
They would
find themselves, in effect, alone and facing the uncertain possibility
of a severe

“Faced with these serious risks, we have to show a sense of
On a subject that touches the deepest meaning of the desire to live or
will to die,
nothing can be barred from debate. On the contrary, the debate on the
end of
life is a political debate – political in the noblest sense of the
Personally, I am against the legalization of active assistance to die;
this is
not my idea of respect for human life and for the values that undergird
society. But I also know that the issue of suffering in end of life is
and can not be reduced to a few simple ideas…

“On issues so deep, with such wide-ranging ethical, medical and social
consequences , it is not the polls or moods of the moment that must
guide us. This
is a matter of life and death. This is the meaning of those last
deeply human moments, even when the hope of a cure is gone…

“We must tackle these issues with the seriousness they demand. The
National Survey on End of Life Issues, created in February 2010, aims
increase knowledge about the conditions of the end of life and medical
related thereto. Its work will focus particularly on the lessons from
experiences. They must also be carefully analysed. Since 2002, Belgium
a growth in the number of euthanasia cases from 24 to 822 in 2009.
must weigh the risks involved when deciding whether to adopt in France a
that would be less precise and circumscribed than the one which
exists in Belgium…

For those who can read French, the Académie
nationale de médecine also issued a strong statement
rejecting the
proposed legislation which is well worth reading. It said that nothing should change the physician’s ethical obligation
to maintain
of trust with the patient.” it expressed misgivings about excesses,
including the temptation to use the law
for economic
.” ~ La Croix, jan 24

Michael Cook