The Leonetti/Claeys End-of-Life law came into force this month. The text was adopted in February 2016, after several years of debate and creates new rights for patients at the end of life. The End of life Act completes the Leonetti law which, since 2005, grants a right to let to die and gives the possibility to terminate therapeutic persistence. This law however does not deal with legalising active euthanasia or assisted suicide. Patients get two possibilities: firstly, a right to “deep and continuous sedation until death”, i.e. a right to fall asleep before dying without suffering. A patient with a serious and incurable disease is ceased to be fed and hydrated artificially and given treatment to sleep until his death. The new law also strengthens the force of what is called “advance directives”. Any competent adult can write a text in which he opposes any therapeutic harassment. Until now, this document was only advisory. Now, advance directive should prevail to the doctor. The law provides several exceptions: the doctor may, for example, not take account of the will of the patient if he considers that the advance directive is “manifestly inappropriate”.
Jean-Luc Roméro, president of the Association for the right of dying in dignity (ADMD-F), is not convinced by the text: “a doctor who has the right to not apply an advance directive because it is manifestly inappropriate, is he alone able to judge, even with his medical team? It is he who decides in the end. It is clear that there are still ways to prevent that the will of the patient at the end of life is not applied. The law concerns the duties of doctors and not the rights of people at the end of life.”