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Euthanasia is not legal, says report to PM

Article published on the 2008-12-02 Latest update 2008-12-02 10:52 TU

Jean Leonetti headed the investigation into the euthanasia law(Photo: <a href="" target="_blank">National Assembly</a>)

Jean Leonetti headed the investigation into the euthanasia law
(Photo: National Assembly)

A report presented to Prime Minister François Fillon Tuesday concludes that euthanasia should not be legalised in France. The four-member group of MPs was charged with examining the legalities of allowing the option of exceptional euthanasia for those suffering from incurable illnesses. The issue was brought to the fore in March when Chantal Sebire committed suicide after she was diagnosed with an incurable face tumour and had requested help to die.

"One has to use extreme caution when agreeing to receive an end-of-life request when it is possible that what the patient says is not voluntary or informed,” cautioned the report, which “refuses to recognise a right to death”.

It does recognise that the existing 2005 end-of-life law is not put into operation well and that efforts should be made to recognise the rights of terminally ill people.

“For a patient at the end of their life, the legal options currently available, which promote quality of life over length of life, resolve the majority of problems,” the group's leader, Jean Leonetti, who is an MP for the ruling UMP party, told Le Figaro newspaper. “It seemed pointless and legally dangerous to introduce a euthanasia exception into the law.”

The report says that current legislation allows gives enough leeway "to absolve or provide leniency on a case-by-case basis”.

Leonetti said the mission looked into all the legal possibilities of euthanasia, including decriminalising it, which means not pressing charges on doctors, or allowing exceptions. 

The team came to its conclusions after interviewing families of patients, advocacy groups, medical and legal experts in France and in Switzerland, the Netherlands and Belgium, which have decriminalised or legalised assisted suicide.

For people not at the end of their lives, Leonetti told Le Figaro that his team concluded the French law “does not formally prohibit” assisted suicide.

The report does not recommend a change in the law, but does propose instituting an observatory of end-of-life practices to oversee its implementation.

It also proposes training more doctors specialised in hospice care, who can get involved in complex situations, and it suggests providing paid time off for people supporting terminally ill patients.