Press Release: Perils of a “Compassionate” Acquittal in the Mercier Case


The Appeals Court in Lyon rendered its verdict this past Thursday, November 10th. Jean Mercier was acquitted for the charges of having helped his wife commit suicide in 2011.  

On October 27, 1915, the octogenarian was condemned for non-assistance to a person in danger of death. He received a punishment as a matter of “principle” for a one year suspended prison sentence, whereas the prosecutor had requested a minimum penalty of a three-year suspended prison sentence. Mr. Mercier appealed the conviction, the punishment, as well as the prosecutor, thus the appeals hearing was held in Lyon.

The lawyer for the General Counsel, Fabienne Goget, had declared that 83 year-old Josanne Mercier “was not at the end of life, she did not suffer from an incurable disease. She had osteoarthritis and anxiety. Death was not the only solution”. She also pointed out that Jean Mercier “acted in the name of his philosophical convictions, attesting that he didn’t have regrets”, and mentioned the couple’s membership in the Association for the Right to Die in Dignity, which has been ubiquitous in this case. After last September 8ths court hearing, Jean Mercier stated: “I don’t care about the sentence, I would prefer to be acquitted, but what matters is continuing the fight to advance our cause”.

Tugdual Derville, Alliance VITA’s General Delegate and author of « The Battle against Euthanasia » * states:

« The idea is not to accuse Mr. Mercier, who is fragile, but it is essential to reject any act of jurisprudence that decriminalizes assisted suicide. Firstly, it makes no sense politically, and constitutes a serious breach of judiciary power bowing down to political authority. It is also a humanitarian catastrophe since this case leads us to believe that there is no longer a universal prevention against suicide, but on the contrary some kinds of assisted suicide which could be encouraged. What is notable in this particular case, artfully manipulated by euthanasia promoters, is that Jean Mercier’s advanced age and disease were considered as motives for his acquittal. His lawyer also declared that Mr. Mercier and his wife had a “dominator-dominated” relationship. This result is extremely dangerous leading one to assume that Jean Mercier had no other alternative except to kill his wife. Recall in the Lydie Debaine case, during the first hearing she was acquitted, but following the outcry from the associations of handicapped individuals, she was granted a second hearing on appeal where she received a “symbolic” sentence which meant that “there were other options”. Exploiting such cases to “breach the dikes” has terrible implications for vulnerable and fragile individuals, not only those who have doubts about their value and purpose in life, but also for their caretakers who are primarily concerned. To acquit a person who has helped someone who is not at the end of life, commit suicide, is confusing for caretakers facing difficult situations? The ban on killing is a safety guard for these types of circumstances.

It is important to ask ourselves the question of how to provide social and collective support for vulnerable individuals. What is really at stake here is a universal prevention of suicide, which we demand, as opposed to emotional manipulation of family tragedies.”


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