January 25, 2011 ( – The French government is opposing two bills under consideration in the country’s Senate to legalize euthanasia and assisted suicide.

The bills, which have been proposed by communist and socialist representatives, would permit “anyone capable” to request “medical assistance to die” if they have a “grave and incurable illness” or “a state of dependence that she regards as incompatible with her dignity.”

Opposition to the bill is being lead by French Prime Minister François Fillon, who recently wrote in a newspaper column, “The question is knowing if society is prepared to legislate to accord itself the right to cause death. I believe that that limit should not be crossed.”

His statement, which reportedly reflects the general opinion of his cabinet, is meant to shore up opposition among senators who oppose the bill, according to the French Press Agency (AFP).  Debate on the measures in Senate is scheduled to begin today.

The AFP also reports that a majority of French voters share the government’s concerns, according to a recent poll, which found that 52% of respondents believed that legalizing assisted suicide would bring “the risk of abuse,” while 48% did not.

The same poll found that 60% saw palliative care as “the priority in terms of end of life” as opposed to 38% who wanted to prioritize the legalization of euthanasia.

The French government in recent years has pursued a policy of promoting the availability of palliative care through the Leonetti Law, as a response to concerns about end-of-life issues.  The law guarantees palliative care to dying patients and allows them to refuse excessively aggressive measures that could prolong their agony.

The last time the French Parliament debated a euthanasia bill, in 2009, it was rejected in a 326 to 202 vote by the National Assembly, the nation’s lower legislative house.


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