European Parliament: EMPs debate the end of life

Publié le : 27 November 2012

On the initiative of the French EMP Philippe Juvin, the Belgian EMP Anne Delvaux and the Luxembourg EMP Frank Engel (EPP party) chaired a debate on the end of life on Wednesday 21 November in the Parliament in Strasbourg. During this debate, Jean-Luc Romero, president of the Association for the Right to Die with Dignity (ADMD), was present. For the Belgian and Luxembourg EMPs, this debate provided the opportunity to review the legislation on euthanasia on their countries, authorised respectively since 2002 and 2009. 

Anne Delvaux pointed out that in Belgium the issue of euthanasia was "not at all" closed. Describing the legislation in detail, she explained that Belgian law "imposes very strict criteria." But she regretted that "there cannot be any real supervision" because "the [Belgian Federal Supervisory] Commission can only record the notifications that doctors choose to send it." Anne Delvaux said that the law "does not prevent abuses." For example, she said she was "worried that 3% of euthanasia cases were justified just by mental suffering, according to the last report of the Commission." She went on to ask: "In such conditions, is the request to die really clarified?" Furthermore, "old people have recourse to euthanasia even though we are not certain that they are suffering from an incurable disease as the law requires." Lastly, she noted that currently in Belgium "discussions are being held on extending the law to include minors." "Without going back on the principle of decriminalization," she concluded by finding that “all this is disturbing."

Jean-Luc Romero joined the discussion by pointing out that "the question of minors must not be dismissed out of hand ‘in the case of great suffering,’ while admitting that ‘our country has not yet come to this." He added that he was "in favour of a law ‘walking in its two feet’: ‘universal access to palliative care’ and the possibility of having recourse to active assistance in dying based on the Belgian model, without being alarmed by the conclusions" drawn by the EMP Anne Delvaux. 

The European MP for Luxembourg, Frank Engel assured the meeting that "in Luxembourg the law has led to a low number of cases of euthanasia" and "above all, this debate [on euthanasia] has thrown light on the flagrant lack of palliative care in the Grand-Duchy." Lastly, he emphasised that "access to this care, of very good quality, has greatly increased since 2009," thus limiting the number of requests for a lethal injection.

Following these contributions to the debate, Philippe Juvin, professor of medicine and EMP, said that he was "very doubtful about the validity of such an approach in France." Like the Belgian EMP, he was "worried about the widespread conception of a law that takes mental suffering as a criterion," particularly since in France "depression is not treated well." Wishing above all to "protect the most vulnerable" and recalling "the ambivalence of requests to die," Philippe Juvin ended by mentioning that "a British study has shown that young victims of paralysis after a road accident think, just after the tragedy, that their life is not worth living." Nevertheless, he added, "as the months go by, they change their mind and some time later most of them think that, yes indeed, their life is worth living. That should give us food for thought."

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