The Senate Committee on Social Affairs adopted on 18th January 2011, a bill aiming at legalise euthanasia. Adopted at 25 votes against 19 and 2 abstentions the first article stipulates that “any major capable person, in terminal or advanced phase of serious and incurable accidental or pathological condition, resulting in a physical and mental suffering which cannot be relieved or it considers unbearable, can ask for benefiting (…) from a medical assistance allowing, by a deliberated act, a quick and deliberated death”. The text is a summary of three bills all aiming at legalise euthanasia and filed one by Jean-Pierre Godefroy (PS), the other by Alain Fouché (UMP) and the third by François Autain and Guy Fischer (CRC-SPG). Note that Muguette Dini, chairman of the Senate Committee on Social Affairs, is part of the sponsoring of the Association for the right to die in dignity (ADMD).
Heard by the committee, Jean-Luc Romero, chairman of the Association for the right to die in dignity (ADMD), mentioned in favour of euthanasia the arguments formerly used by the defenders of the decriminalization of abortion: Since euthanasia today illegal exists in France, we have to legislate to make it legal;
legalising euthanasia would take action against the following inequality: “to the richest, the last travel to Switzerland, and to the others, the violent death; not legalising euthanasia would convert France into an exception; the euthanasia act does not kill someone.
Subjectivity and deficit of information
In addition to the question of the subjectivity of criteria posed by the bill (according to which objective criteria can we define the pain?), various voices, including that of the French Prime Minister François Fillon in a column of the Monde, expressed against this text denouncing in particular the risk of moral pressure on the most vulnerable people, the upheaval of the trust in health professionals and the weakness of scientific knowledge on the subject. For want of rigorous studies, indeed it is difficult to grasp the quantitative and qualitative reality of euthanasia requests.
In November 2010, the national Observatory on end of life already regrets that “the debates on end of life remains today essentially founded on personal convictions and on an emotional dimension are scarcely compatible with the rigor necessary for constructing a real health policy”. To do so, the Observatory on end of life launched two studies, whose results are expected early 2012.
This bill is reviewed whereas we know, from one hand, that Leonetti’s law of 2005 on end of life remains not well known and widely applied, and from another hand, the palliative culture is unequally spread. According to an Opinion Way survey made early January 2011, the development of palliative care is, for 60% of interviewed persons, the priority in terms of end of life before the legalisation of euthanasia (38%)…
Senatorial turn of events
When the senators had to comment on 25th January 2011 in the evening on the text adopted on 18th by the Committee on Social Affairs, an amendment presented by Marie-Thérèse Hermange and Gilbert Barbier which empties of its substance the article 1 of the bill aiming at legalising euthanasia has been adopted on 25th January in the morning. Marie-Thérèse Hermange showed that the adoption of the bill was made “in haste”. “For example how do we define, the particularly mental suffering, for the parent who has an autistic, schizophrenic or manic-depressive child?“. The vote of its amendment rejecting euthanasia was made within the framework of amendments called “exterior” which can present the senators. Finally during the night from 25th to 26th January, the bill aiming at legalising euthanasia has been rejected 170 votes against 142.