By Hilary White

PARIS, November 27, 2009 ( – The French National Assembly has rejected an attempt to legalize euthanasia in a 326 to 202 vote.

“Euthanasia is not a medical act. The right to die is not a medical act,” said Union for a Popular Movement party deputy Jean Leonetti, author of a 2005 law on dying that promotes the use of palliative care.

The Alliance for Human Life welcomed the vote, saying that the bill “played on the ambiguity of the word 'dignity'” and “contributed to the confusion on a difficult topic.”

Xavier Mirabel, president of the Alliance said, “The French do not want aggressive treatment. When they understand that aggressive treatment does not include euthanasia, most of our citizens are reassured. We therefore ask that the Leonetti law be known and more fully implemented, which requires a more proactive promotion of palliative care.”

The Alliance for Life has launched an education campaign making clear that palliative care can negate any perceived need for euthanasia. They have distributed over 500,000 pamphlets on the theme, “Neither aggressive medical treatment nor euthanasia.”

In the bill, put forward by Manuel Valls a deputy for the Parti Socialiste (PS), euthanasia was described as “medical assistance to die with dignity.” The bill's supporters argued that since euthanasia was currently being practiced “outside a legal framework,” it was necessary to have a law regulating it.

“Either we accept that euthanasia is often hypocritically practiced without rules or control, or be willing to open the choice of an end of life framed by precise rules, with protection for the patient and the doctor,” said Laurent Fabius, another deputy for the Socialists.

The text of the bill said euthanasia should be allowed for “all adults with advanced or terminal illnesses of a serious and incurable [nature]; those who suffer from physical or mental pain that can not be appeased [by medicine] and that [the patient] considers intolerable.”

Anti-euthanasia activists have strongly criticized such language which they say could lead to patients suffering from mental illnesses like depression being at risk of medically approved suicide.