Lawmakers in France Unanimously Back Passive Euthanasia Measure

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Nov 30, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Lawmakers in France Unanimously Back Passive Euthanasia Measure Email this article
Printer friendly page

by Steven Ertelt Editor
November 30, 2004

Paris, France ( — In a near unanimous vote, lawmakers in the French parliament approved a patients rights bill that includes a provision allowing the use of passive euthanasia. The measure allows patients to request that doctors remove them from life-sustaining machines or medicines.

Some 548 of the 551 members backed the bill, with the remaining three abstaining.

While the law allows doctors to withdraw lifesaving medical treatment, it does not go as far as laws in the Netherlands and Belgium that permit active euthanasia under certain circumstances.

The issue of legalizing euthanasia was advanced when 22 year-old Vincent Humbert, a paralyzed man, took his life with his mother’s help.

Humbert’s mother allegedly injected him with a fatal dose of sedatives that placed him in a coma and doctors then agreed to cut his life support.

Though the bill received a strong vote, lawmakers in France and the nation’s top doctors group opposes active euthanasia.

An estimated 150,000 people in France die each year as a result of a decision to be removed from life-sustaining drugs or machines. The measure was sought to clarify French law and legalize a practice that has already become accepted.

Health Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy proposed the provision, which also prevents taking doctors to court when they grant a request for passive euthanasia.

"With this law, the end of life in France will have another face: It will be a moment of choice and no longer a moment of submission," Douste-Blazy said, according to an Associated Press report.

Douste-Blazy agreed that French citizens are not looking to legalize active euthanasia.

The French Senate will examine the measure next year and decide on final approval.