France’s peak medical body, the Conseil national de l’ordre des médecins (CNOM, the national council of the college of physicians) has endorsed euthanasia. This marks the first time that a French medical body has taken this step.
The decision was supported by a telephone survey of 605 French doctors which showed that 60% were in favour of active euthanasia.
Although critics suggest that the CNOM has crossed a Rubicon, it attempts to limit euthanasia – which it calls “assisted death” – to situations in which patients are suffering prolonged and uncontrollable psychological or physical pain. Such extreme cases, it claims, are not envisaged in the so-called 2005 Leonetti Law which currently regulates end-of-life issues in France.
In these situations, when patients have clearly and repeatedly requested doctors to end their lives, the CNOM says that doctors have a “devoir d’humanité” “a duty to humanity”. The appropriate response should be “suitable, deep and terminal sedation”.
The CNOM says that a euthanasia law ought to make provision for conscientious objection.
President François Hollande plans to table end-of-life legislation in June.