France Senate Defeats Bill to Legalize Euthanasia

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jan 26, 2011   |   5:45PM   |   Paris, France

The Senate in France has defeated a bill that would have legalized the practice of euthanasia on a 170-142 vote. Jean-Pierre Godefroy (Parti Socialiste), Alain Fouché (UMP) and François Autain and Guy Fischer (Parti communiste-Parti de gauche were the prime sponsors of the bill.

Alex Schadenberg of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition said the bill “would have allowed euthanasia for people with disabilities, those with chronic conditions and people who are defined as terminal.”

The measure came under heavy criticism and 700 people participated in a public demonstration where they pretended to be dead — and the visceral impact they made weighed heavily on the minds of senators before they voted.

Prime Minister François Fillon spoke out against the euthanasia bill a few days before the vote, saying he was “against a law allowing actively helping someone to die.” Fillon said he didn’t think such a law would fit in with the “basic values of our society” and that to legislate giving the right to end someone’s life was a limit “we should not go beyond”. He said it was also “very dangerous” as it did not allow for any consultation with the family.

According to Schadenberg, “Fillon said the debate should also take account of the actions taken since 2008 by Nicolas Sarkozy who has made the care of terminally ill people “an absolute priority.”

“That had led to the development of a palliative care program that has seen the creation of 1,200 new beds and the start, last March, of specific financial aid to allow families to care for terminally ill loved ones,” he said.

Meanwhile, a recent French poll found 52% of the respondents thought that legalizing euthanasia would include a “risk of abuse” and 60% of the respondents thought that France should make the development of palliative care a priority before considering the legalization of euthanasia, while 38% thought that France should legalize euthanasia.

“The concerns of the French citizen is well founded. Recent studies in Belgium found in the Flanders region that 32% of the euthanasia deaths were done without explicit request or consent and another study found that 47.8% of the euthanasia deaths were not reported,” Schadenberg concluded.

Also responding, John Smeaton, SPUC Pro-Life’s director, said: “We hope that this victory for life will help people in the UK understand the strong opposition elsewhere to assisted suicide and euthanasia. The UK will do irreparable damage to its international reputation if it continues down the path of killing patients. The French vote is a wake-up call to UK politicians to start overturning laws, policies and court judgments which enshrine euthanasia by dehydration and which tolerate assisted suicide. We express our congratulations and admiration for the French pro-life movement in securing this victory for the sick, the disabled and the elderly.”