Euthanasia is forbidden by the French penal law (called the Code penal).
Just as in Belgium, there is no article that specifically forbids assisted suicide or the provision of lethal drugs. And just as in Belgium, also in France the article about the failure to provide assistance, article 223-6 of the Code penal (1994), serves (based on caselaw / literature?) as instrument to punish people who assist someone by a suicide: “Anyone who can prevent by its immediate action, without risk to himself or to third parties, a crime or a crime against the person bodily integrity, who willfully fails to do so is punishable by five years imprisonment and 75 000 euro fine. The same penalties will anyone who willfully fails to bring to a person in danger assistance that without risk to himself or to third parties, he could lend to him by his personal action, or by initiating rescue.”
In practice, this article appears never to be used in assisted suicide cases (Source: Euthanasia and law in Europe – Griffiths, Weyers and Adams, 2008, pp. 386-387). Doctors can be prosecuted (for example by means of a professional code) if they offer assistance with suicide, but this differs per province since not all federal states recognize this professional code.
Refusal of treatment
Since 2005, France has the right to die and patients are allowed to refuse treatment. For example, an advance directive for a treatment ban is legally valid. Refusing treatment is not just reserved for people in a terminal phase. This is also possible for people with disabilities. The doctor is not allowed to stop on his own or with a treatment or medication that results in death.
The French health law, the code de la santé publique (1951), says that every person has the right to refuse treatment. Article L1110-2 guarantees the right to dignity to patients.
This right became stronger in 2005. The then established loi relative aux droits des malades et à la fin de vie recognizes the right for the concerned person to express his/her views and wishes for treatment through Advanced Directives and can name a Person of Confidence (Personne de Confiance) who’s opinion must be listened to by the doctor. This law authorizes Doctors to stop treatments including feeding and all life sustaining support until death. Imposes a collegial decision on any end of life treatments or decisions and re-states that the doctor is the ultimate decision maker in all cases.
Presently reviewed and most of it’s advances taken out by the Senate, a joint committee of the Senate and the House is convened to attempt to establish a compromise.
The timing expected is that the compromised version will be voted by the House early next year and the application decree published in spring. Then the President can argue that he did all he could to make the law progress as promised during his campaign but that the country was not ready for this.
In 2016 a new law is created: the Loi créant de nouveaux droits en faveur des malades et des personnes en fin de vie. The advantage of this new law is that the person can write advanced directives and the doctor must take them in consideration. However, the doctor remains final decision maker. No means of obligation are in the law for the doctor to do as the patient asks.
Relief of pain
In 2012, a French doctor was acquitted of poisoning seven patients. He had given the terminal patients an injection to speed up their dying. At the end of 2014, Hollande spoke out as a supporter of the possibility of palliative sedation. The debate in France is still on the move partly due to judicial decisions.
Right to Die Societies
Association internationale pour la légalisation du suicide assisté et de l’euthanasie d’exception