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French commission opens door to legalizing assisted suicide

A commission, chaired by former head of France’s National Ethics Committee prof. Didier Sicard – following the election pledge of Francois Hollande to “open possibilities for medical assistance at the end of life of unbearably ill patients” – has published the results of its research into the issue of end of life care (la fin de vie) in lengthy report. The main conclusion is that assisted suicide – contrary to euthanasia, which is explicitly called a ‘non-possibility’ (l’impossible consensus entre les partisans de l’euthanasie et ceux qui s’y opposent) – might be appropriate in cases of incurable illness. The commission consulted numerous public meetings across the country.

Under existing legislation (the 2005 Leonetti Law), French doctors are only allowed to administer painkilling drugs that might have the secondary effect of cutting short patient’s lifes.

The government of President Francois Hollande said it would act on the recommendations of the report by bringing a bill on end-of-life care before Parliament in June 2013 . Assisted suicide is a topic on which public opinion appears to be ahead of legislators and mainstream medical opinion.

Parallel to the Commission’s work a survey was held, the results of which can be found here: resumé and quantitative results.

Worthwhile reading (French only):

Publication in l’Expresse France

ADMD-F press reaction