End of Life law: reaction following the National Assembly’s final vote

The Parliament voted on January 27, in the National Assembly as well as the Senate, the final version on the proposed law for the end of life initiated by deputies Claeys and Leonetti.

Concerning this vote, Alliance VITA is aligned with, and is a partner with the movement Relieve suffering without killing, whose statement appears in the press release below.

Alliance VITA support the objectives of vigilance and close follow-up that this new law requires, in particular the following action: “Today at both national and regional levels, our movement is launching, a two-fold measure of vigilance. First on the application of this new law on the End of life (…) Then by verifying the effective implementation of the development plan for palliative care which was announced after a three year delay, and its’ adequacy to the real needs of the French population.”

Press Release: January 27 2016

« Now that the review of the law on the End of life has been concluded, the collective movement Relieve suffering without killing solicits the highest vigilance for the application of this text, whose real intentions remain ambiguous.

The creation of a « right to profound and continuous sedation until death » effectively opens the door to abuses in acts of euthanasia: its’ promoters have orally voiced multiple reassuring assertions, but have consistently refused to have it inscribed “in black and white” in the law that the intention of this type of sedation should not be to provoke death. By supporting this intentional grey zone, this text undermines the relationships between care-takers and patients since the new law does not clearly forbid hidden euthanasia.

Certainly, a few positive amendments were added in view of curbing the threat o facilitating euthanasia, such as for instance by eliminating the shocking phrase “not to uselessly extend life” or the condition of “suffering resilient to treatments” (and not only “to treatment”, in the singular form – which would specifically signify that all other treatments had previously been attempted) in the case of a patient at the end of life. But serious ambiguities remain; in particular:

  • the criteria, “intolerable” suffering for patients deliberately stopping life-saving treatment, is completely subjective: this unverifiable criteria opens the door to multiple misappropriations in the direction of assisted suicide;
  • the lack of protection for unconscious patients, incapable of expressing themselves, with the threat of hidden euthanasia by stopping artificial feeding and hydration under the pretext that this would be a “disproportionate treatment”.

This same ambiguity is found in the way the anticipated guidelines are addressed, as if the patient could write his own prescriptions, with the danger of putting a deadly pressure on doctors, whose mission is to care for and accompany as best they can, according to their competence.

According to Tugdual Derville, one of the national spokesmen for the collective movement Relieve suffering without killing: “Today at both national and regional levels, our movement is launching, a two-fold measure of vigilance. First on the application of this new law on the End of life: faced with the risk of euthanasia that we have underlined, we want to protect the essence and the integrity of palliative care. In the Health Minister’s speeches referring to a landmark law the term « final sedation » necessitates particular attention as to how the law can be interpreted. Then the effective implementation of the development plan for palliative care which was announced after a three year delay, and its’ adequacy to the real needs of the French population will be verified. The law on the end of life, as it is so named, threatens to lead to serious confusion between palliative care and euthanasia, via terminal sedation protocols with the cutting off of artificial feeding and hydration. When a law does not clearly protect the most vulnerable people, we are compelled to increase our mobilization to help the sick, their care-takers and relatives to protect them from an unduly systematic, even expeditious, practice of sedation.”

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