No one can remain indifferent following the incident of Anne Bert’s highly publicized euthanasia. Anyone suffering from severe disabling pathologies deserves to be heard, comforted, and supported. While being sympathetic to Anne Bert’s suffering, it does not entitle her to be a spokesperson for other patients, their relatives and all those professionals and volunteers who take care of them.
The French public was caught unaware by the mass media’s no-holds-barred coverage of Bert’s personal suffering, even announcing that her book’s release would follow her planned suicide in Belgium. Without judging the person, in hind-sight we must try to understand the fatal consequence of her act. In view of all the publicity, was she still acting under her own free will? Could she desist without incurring consequences from those who used Anne Bert’s situation to further their cause, without mentioning her publisher’s disappointment?
This suicide’s impact on patients, families, and caregivers needs to be addressed. To speak of having the “courage to die” in such a situation, is completely obliterating the courage it takes to live. It is desperately critical when vulnerable people hear that it’s better for them to choose death, rather than life, to choose euthanasia over palliative care and research. Every individual needs to be taken into account and supported during the difficult loss of autonomy. If the media only give voice to a person who does not accept dependence, no one will hear the edifying testimonials of those who assume their difficulties…, thus demonstrating how society excludes those who are vulnerable.
Some speak of having to seek exile in Belgium. What is shocking however, are not the differences in terms of death, but those in terms of life: accompanying, supporting, and giving people access to palliative care. Are we going to do our best to relieve physical pain and moral, social and spiritual suffering when facing the natural end of life and implement the necessary resources? Or are we going to take the easy path by “extinguishing” people?
Forbidding killing is society’s red line which must not be crossed. At stake is the challenge of refusing both therapeutic eagerness and euthanasia. France has made this decision in favor of humanity. Acting otherwise would risk hindering medical research’s huge efforts to combat illness- especially the one this woman suffered from- and to fight against pain.
The treatment of most vulnerable individuals in society reveals much about our humanity. It is inacceptable to judge people according to their supposed usefulness. The way we look at them often influences the way they see themselves.
If society deems that euthanasia is required for anyone who is seriously ill, we will become dehumanized. This latest media coverage should incite a leap of conscience, without ceding to the influence of those who are taking advantage of the situation, trying to force the government to relent in favor of euthanasia and assisted suicide. ”
Listen to Tugdual Derville and the complete debate on Assisted Suicide recorded by Sud Radio on September 12, 2017.