France: No general end of life debates // Interview with Jean Léonetti

Publié le : 8 November 2013

 Based on its opinion published in July 2013, the CCNE (French National Advisory Council on Ethical Issues) announced that general end of life debates would be held this autumn. But this is scheduled to be carried out on a minor scale: 30 randomly selected citizens will debate this topic over 4 weekends and present their conclusions on 16 December 2013.

Jean Léonetti, author of the law dated 22 April 2005 relating to patient’s rights and the end of life, examines the gap between general bioethics discussions organised in 2009 and the type of debate in the pipeline. In 2009 "debates were held in all regions involving regional ethics committees, panels of citizens in three major cities and an Internet site for explanations and dialogue." Jean Léonetti regrets two aspects in the organisation of the autumn 2013 debates.
Firstly, the rush to discuss a topic that is not a matter of urgency and the fact that "eight months were needed to implement general bioethics debates whereas, in this case, it is envisaged that everything will be wrapped up within two months with the presentation of a legal document in June after the municipal elections.This isn’t getting to grips with the situation.
Secondly, this panel will not carry any weight unless it contravenes the "conclusions of the Sicard report, which consulted the French people, contrary to the spirit of the unanimously elected 2005 legislation, and against the opinion of the CCNE, which turned down euthanasia."

In view of these facts, Jean Léonetti believes that the government will use a forceful strategy to pass the law. It is even more lamentable that "
French people are not fully aware of the legislation governing the end of life and their rights." He also stressed that the "end of life debate goes far beyond the simple fact of knowing whether to allow someone to die or whether to assist someone at the end of their life to die."

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