Updated: Oct 27
By: Noëllie Inard
On September 13, 2022, French president Emmanuel Macron announced a national debate meant to open a discussion on end-of-life options including the legalisation of assisted suicide. In a written statement President Macron said that citizens would work on the issue with health care workers while debates will take place in French regions.
According to the American broadcast network ABC World News, the government also plans to hold discussions with lawmakers from different political parties to find a common consensus on the issue of end-life options. According to Macron, those discussions are aiming for some changes to happen next year. As of now, euthanasia and assisted suicide are prohibited in France. According to the National Library of Medicine, euthanasia is described as a process involving a medical professional performing the task of administrating lethal drugs, while assisted suicide involves the patient directly self-administering the lethal dose of drugs.
In April 2005 the French government legalised passive euthanasia as a patient’s right to die while setting boundaries with euthanasia. According to the National Library of Medicine, passive euthanasia is a term that is not fully clear and creates a lot of debate regarding its definition but commonly refers to the withholding of life-saving treatment. Life-saving treatments include drugs, hydration and nutrition.
In 2016, a law deepened the understanding of passive euthanasia and allowed doctors to couple the withholding of treatment with continuous sedation for terminally ill patients. Thus, the current French law establishes the right for terminally ill patients whose conditions are likely to lead to a quick death to request deep and continuous sedation to consciousness until death.
According to ABC World News, the unauthorised performance of assisted suicide and euthanasia is the reason that brings many French citizens to travel to other European countries to seek assisted suicide. The European countries that have legalised euthanasia are Luxembourg, Belgium, the Netherland and Spain under specific conditions dictated by the laws of the country. Additionally, Switzerland is the only European country authorising assisted suicide, which has become a legitimate way to end one’s life with free will.
Macron’s announcement for the opening of the debate came the day the family of Jean-Luc Godard, a well-known French-Swiss film director, announced his death by assisted suicide in his home in Switzerland. Nevertheless, opening the debate surrounding end-of-life options was one of Macron’s promises during his campaign for reelection in April 2022. During his campaign, he shared being in favor of legalising assisted suicide to make France evolve toward a Belgian model; Belgium being the first country to have lifted all age restrictions on legal, medically induced death.
President Emmanuel Macron stated, “I am convinced that we must move because there are inhumane situations that persist and to which we must give answers.”
According to ABC News, Macron’s wishes are to imitate the voices of French citizens. Indeed, recent French polls showed an increased number of opinions in favor of legalising assisted suicide, supporting the idea of people’s right to die as well as their free will in the face of death.