The “ESEC” (Economic, Social and Environmental Council) has recently requested for the French government to launch a generalized public citizens’ debate on ageing and greater dependency in their draft opinion submitted on April 24, to the Health Minister, Agnès Buzyn.

The ESEC addressed the issue of advanced aging and greater dependency, in view of the on-going personnel crisis in the French nursing homes (“EPHADs”). At their plenary session held on April 24th they voted an opinion statement entitled “Aging with Dignity“, which includes 15 recommendations. At a time when the “EHPAD” personnel are experiencing enormous distress due to staff shortages and poor working conditions, the ESEC intends to adopt the flagship recommendations of the parliamentary mission to double the number of nurses and nursing aides within the next 4 years.

The report underlines the fact that the current services and accommodation for the elderly “are inadequate for their needs and expectations”.  Among the 15 recommendations in their report, the ESEC concurred that “as soon as possible, a wide public discussion should be held, to address sources of funding for collectively managing the loss of autonomy”. The ESEC also recommends reuniting everyone involved in this field to “ascertain the main points for long-term sustainable financing for home care services”. They suggest carrying out studies to better identify “any social and territorial disparities in the subsidiary programs” granted by different regions, in order to better equilibrate the Personalized Autonomy Allowance (PAA) levels.

Finally, the report underlines the importance of preventing the loss of autonomy, “throughout life” and “especially at work” in order to “limit or delay the effects of aging”. The ESEC also recommends “expeditiously lift” the obstacles for the administrative procedures for time-off periods developed for caregivers. The report also stresses the necessity of maintaining social contact and fighting against solitude and loneliness.

All these recommendations are a welcome contribution to the ongoing broad-based deliberations for the past few months in France, concerning how to best manage healthcare for the ageing population. Nevertheless, the ESEC’s work is diminished by a recent opinion published on the end-of-life, a highly controversial statement which recommends legalizing euthanasia, by disguising it as healthcare.

As emphasized by Tugdual Derville, Alliance VITA’s general delegate *: 

“Today some elderly people are being marginalized from society; how tempting it could be for us to deem that their lives are not worth living. When their health begins sliding downhill, how tempting it could be to employ the means to finally “be finished” with this life that is burdensome! This is an enormous risk! At these most difficult moments, the knowledge that we won’t resort to an expeditious process of euthanasia, can incite us to be much more inventive and show more solidarity.”

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* Quote from the Round Table discussion on End-of-Life organized by the Social Affairs Committee of the French National Assembly on April 18, 2018.