France Poll Finds Support for Assisted Suicide After Chantal Sebire’s Death

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Mar 30, 2008   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

France Poll Finds Support for Assisted Suicide After Chantal Sebire’s Death Email this article
Printer friendly page

RSS Newsfeed

by Steven Ertelt Editor
March 30
, 2008

Paris, France ( — A new poll of French people conducted just before the death of Chantal Sebire finds more than 90 percent favor legalizing assisted suicide there or are learning towards it. Sebire, a French euthanasia advocate, took her life last week on the heels of this new poll whose data only came to light on Friday.

Ifop-Paris Match conducted the survey with 956 French adults on March 20 and 21 — but it provided no margin of error for the poll.

The firm asked French people a question that appeared to bias them in favor of an assisted suicide law.

"Are you personally in favor or against enacting a law that would authorize a doctor to end the life of a person with an incurable disease and causing unbearable suffering, if this person requests it?" the poll asked.

About 51 percent of respondents indicated they support legalizing assisted suicide while another 41 percent said they are "somewhat" in favor.

Another 6 percent are "somewhat" against assisted suicide while another 3 percent are "strongly" against it.

The poll shows the permissive attitude Europeans have about assisted suicide and euthanasia, which are allowed in the Netherlands, Belgium, and Switzerland. Luxembourg has already had an initial vote to go down the same road.

On Friday, reported that Sebire died of an overdose of narcotic drugs in what authorities say appeared to be a suicide.

Sebire wanted help to take her own life because she had a rare tumor that was ravaging her face and she unsuccessfully pressed for France to allow the practice.

She died suddenly on Wednesday, just two days following a court’s decision denying her the ability to have a physician prescribe her a lethal dose of drugs.

Prosecutor Jean-Pierre Alacchi told reporters, "The tests conducted reveal the presence in the blood of a toxic concentration of barbiturate, Pentobarbital."

He said Sebire ingested three times the lethal amount of the drug than is normally given when used in euthanizing animals, according to an AFP report.

The drug is not normally available from French pharmacies and authorities are investing how she obtained it. The drug is also used in legal assisted suicides in Switzerland and Belgium and in Oregon in the United States.

France adopted a law in 2005 that allows patients to refuse lifesaving medical treatment, but it does not allow assisted suicide nor does it allow euthanasia — where a doctor would actively administer the toxic drugs.

The law says medical treatment should not include "unreasonable efforts" and that a terminally ill patient should be able to "limit or stop all treatment."

Doctors can stop giving treatment when it "seems useless, disproportionate or has no effect other than maintaining life artificially."

Following Sebire’s death, several top officials have said it may be necessary to review the nation’s law.