[Right_to_die] A small French step
right_to_die_2 at mailman.efn.org
right_to_die_2 at mailman.efn.org
Thu Nov 25 17:02:33 PST 2004
Reuters Foundation is reporting: French "end of life" law stops short of
25 Nov 2004 17:52:39 GMT
By Kerstin Gehmlich
PARIS, Nov 25 (Reuters) - A draft French law to allow terminally ill
patients to opt for death over further treatment has won widespread support,
after a wave of sympathy last year for a mother seeking euthanasia for her
France's parliament will start debating a law on Friday, which allows
doctors to switch off patients' life-support machines if "there is no hope
to achieve an improvement in the person's health and if these extend life
The authors of the law -- supported by the conservative government,
opposition Socialists and the Roman Catholic Church -- have emphasised the
bill does not copy voluntary euthanasia now legal in Belgium and the
The draft bill says terminally ill patients should have the right to ask for
treatment to be stopped, even if that leads to death, and doctors should
respect their wishes after verification with the patient and medical
Supporters of the draft bill say it is distinct from euthanasia because it
does not allow the doctor to actively end the patient's life.
The law also suggests families should be able to request an end to life
support for unconscious patients.
"We will have a new culture. It will not be hypocrisy and the current status
quo. It will not be euthanasia, but a French law which will live up to the
dignity of life," Health Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy told parliament on
RIGHT TO DIE?
Euthanasia has become a national issue in France since Vincent Humbert, a
22-year old injured in a road accident, begged President Jacques Chirac to
let his mother end his life last year.
Humbert's accident had left him blind, mute, paralyzed and in constant pain.
Shortly after Humbert wrote a book about his wish to die, his mother tried
but failed to kill him with a lethal injection.
Humbert's doctor later took him off life support and he died shortly after.
But the doctor was then put under a judicial probe for "poisoning with
A wave of public sympathy for the physician has placed a question mark over
whether he will be prosecuted.
Critics of the new law said the text would not have allowed Marie Humbert to
actively end her son's life. But many doctors say it will help clarify the
difficult choices available to doctors in such situations.
"Many patients think that ending their treatment amounts to euthanasia. The
law makes clear that's not the case," said Xavier Mirabel, a doctor at an
organisation advising patients and relatives on issues surrounding the right
The new law also says doctors can prescribe pain-stopping drugs for a
terminally ill patient, even if the medication -- such as morphine --
increased the patient's risk of dying.
Many pro-life groups and representatives of the Roman Catholic Church said
they agreed with the proposed law, but Marie Humbert said this would not
have helped her son.
"Vincent did not want to go slowly, without knowing what was happening to
him. He wanted to go at once, on the day he had made the decision (to die),"
Humbert told LCI television. She is now campaigning for a law to allow
euthanasia in some cases.
Parliament is largely expected to vote in favour of the bill next week,
after which it will go to the Senate upper house
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