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France moves one step closer to legalizing euthanasia

France is one step closer to legalizing euthanasia after approving a bill that allows doctors to sedate terminally ill patients until they die. The bill stops short of recommending lethal injections and avoids the terms euthanasia or assisted suicide, but would give people ‘the right to deep, continuous sedation until death’. This must be at the patient’s request, but only when their condition is life-threatening in the short-term.

The proposed measure was passed by a vote of 436 to 34 in France’s lower house of Parliament, and it must now be debated by the Senate. Backed by the Socialist government, the bill would also force doctors in France to follow end-of-life instructions expressed by the patients themselves, or written in advance if they are no longer able to state their wishes.

Earlier this month in a speech at France’s lower house of Parliament, Prime minister Manuel Valls praised ‘a reform that proclaims the right to die peacefully, in dignity and without suffering’. The bill has stirred debate in France and prompted a call for the preservation of ‘the prohibition of killing’ by five high-profile Christian, Muslim and Jewish leaders. It has prompted protests by those claiming the bill amounts to disguised euthanasia, as well as pro-euthanasia campaigners who believe it does

Doctors are also divided about the idea. So-called terminal or ‘palliative sedation’ can involve medicating patients until they die naturally of their illnesses, or until they starve. The method does not actively kill patients, but some doctors say it can mean patients are sedated for weeks before they die, and that it may be more humane to euthanize.The French debate over end-of-life legislation resurfaced last year over the case of comatose Frenchman Vincent Lambert. His wife wants doctors to stop life support but his parents disagree. The case is pending at the European Court of Human Rights.

(from The Mail online, 17 March 2015)

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