July 12, 2011 ( – The French Senate is preparing to debate the legalization of assisted suicide for patients suffering from an “advanced” stage of a serious illness, according to La Croix, a national Catholic newspaper.

The language of the two bills under consideration, which were respectively proposed by a communist and a socialist legislator, would legalize euthanasia under vague terms that would permit patients to be euthanized because of “psychological” suffering, or even because they are indignant over their circumstances.

One bill, proposed by communist Jean-Pierre Godefroy, states that “any mature person, in the advanced or terminal phase of a accidental or pathological affliction that is grave or incurable, causing physical or psychological suffering that cannot be relieved and that she judges to be unendurable, can request to receive (…) medical assistance to die.”

The second, proposed by socialist Alain Fouché, allows that “anyone capable, in an advanced or terminal phase of an illness that is recognized s grave and incurable or placed in a state of dependence that she regards as incompatible with her dignity, can ask to receive (…) medical assistance to die.”

The debate represents the first time that the Senate has agreed to consider such measures.  France has been subject to an intense pro-euthanasia campaign since 2008, when several cases of medical patients requesting assisted suicide were publicized by the French media.

A government investigation of the issue, conducted in late 2008, revealed that France’s Leonetti Law, which governs end of life issues, was “misunderstood” and “misapplied” and recommended that euthanasia not be legalized.  The existing law gives patients a right to receive palliative care to relieve their suffering, and allows them to refuse further medical treatment. However, it does not permit euthanasia or assisted suicide, a “right” that is increasingly popular in northern Europe.

As a result of the report, the End of Life Medical Practices Observatory was created, and an effort to establish palliative care units at hospitals was undertaken, one that has met with success, according to a recent report by the National Committee for Monitoring the Development of Palliative Care.

Regis Abury, Chief of Palliative Care Service of the University Hospital Center of Benançon, told the La Croix newspaper that he regrets that things are being done “backwards,” in the words of the periodical, because, he says “they don’t know, at this point, the reality of the requests for euthanasia in France and the factors that lead to it,” a topic that the End of Life Observatory is studying.

“This means, regarding the subject, they might be about the legislate without a basis, which is dangerous in a democracy,” he added.

The debate is scheduled to be held on January 25.


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