Luc Ferry opposes utilitarian approach
A bill to legalise
euthanasia under controlled conditions was defeated in the French
National Assembly this week by a vote of 326 to 202. It was an
initiative of Socialist deputy Manuel Valls, who had hoped to
rekindle a national debate. The deputies were given a conscience vote
on the issue.
The bill proposed
that “all adults in an advanced or terminal phase of a serious and
incurable illness which involves physical or psychic suffering which
cannot be treated and which they feel is unbearable, may ask for
medical help, under strict conditions, to die with dignity”.
prime minister Laurent Fabius argued that the bill placed the
individual at the centre of decision-making and that it would lead to
“d’avantage de fraternité,
d’avantage d’égalité, et d’avantage de liberté”
– more fraternity, more equality and more liberty.
minister for education Luc
Ferry, a well-known secular humanist philosopher, strongly
opposed the bill in a column in Le
Figaro after the vote in the Assembly.
He wrote that dependency must not be equated with lack of dignity.
“The notion that a human being can lose his or her value because
they are weak, sick or old and lack autonomy is unacceptable
Ferry contended that
a request for death is never really free. Rather it is so conditioned
by the patient’s distress that there is no freedom. He criticised
utilitarian theories by which human dignity can be reduced to a
calculus of pleasure and pain and recalled advice from the 17th
century philosopher Blaise Pascal: there is in man something which
infinitely surpasses the human condition, a transcendence which
commands respect and is worth fighting for, even in the midst of
suffering. – Le
Monde, Nov 24; AFP,
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