Multiform opposition to euthanasia and assisted suicide

30/06/2023

Various voices are being raised against the legalisation of euthanasia and assisted suicide:  politicians, health workers, as well as citizens including those facing handicap. Although far from exhaustive, these stated positions reveal the profound fractures relating to a project which is presented as requiring consensus and a debate which is far from appeased.

Politicians from all sides are expressing their reservations

Among the political personalities, two directly concerned ministers recently expressed themselves.

The Health Minister, François Braun, as early as April expressed himself in an interview for Le Monde, recalling that: “to accompany death, is not the same as to cause death”. 

Quite recently, on 23rd June 2023 Jean-Christophe Combe, the Minister for Solidarity, Autonomy and the Handicapped, in an interview for Le Figaro, warned against any change in the legislation: “A law for active assistance in dying would be liable to precipitate us into a different relationship towards vulnerability and self-eradication of the most fragile people. The previous Head of the Red Cross is speaking from experience.

He suggests what the French model requested by the French President should be : “A model based on the refusal of unreasonable therapeutic obstinacy, better known and earlier palliative care, support for helpers, social links to combat the curse of loneliness and loving care for the suffering person”.

On Wednesday 28thJune, the social affairs commission of the Senate submitted its report considering “inappropriate and dangerous” any form of programmed death. Whilst the President of the Senate, Gérard Larcher, when interviewed by BFM on 13th April said he had “extreme reservations” recalling that ”2/3 of French people have no access to palliative care in France, that is my priority !”

In early May, François Bayrou, the leader of Modem, a party affiliated with the presidential majority, expressing his intimate reservations on the end of life stated “Let us not set up a public service for causing death”.

Finally, quite uniquely, 6 members of the national Assembly from different parties (PCF, PS, LR, Modem, Renaissance and Horizon) signed a tripartite column in Le Monde on 22nd June 2023 recalling that “the end of life is still part of life” and that “carers should never have the right of life and death for those under their care” They stressed that the patient must be able to “share their suffering and their most intimate concerns without the place where they are being cared for ever becoming the place which causes death”.

Health workers express their opposition

In April 2023, the National Council of the Order of Doctors stated that it was “against any participation by doctors in a process leading to euthanasia” and their active participation in assisted suicide. In February 2023, 13 organisations representing some 800,000 health workers issued an ethical statement on the consequences of the potential legalisation of euthanasia and assisted suicide and reaffirmed that “causing death cannot be considered as a treatment”. These organisations which represent various workers (nurses, geriatricians, palliative care workers, oncologists, home care workers, nursing homes and the medico-social sector etc.) warned the legislator of the threats which such an evolution would impose on the most vulnerable.

Action also by the Association of Directors for Services for the Aged (AD-PA) who appealed to the government and society “Do we intend to kill the aged simply to save money?”. The association recalls that “a large number of aged people suffer from depression in particular linked to solitude” and refuses any “question of inviting the aged to die simply because we could not give them the means to live their final years comfortably”.

The vulnerable and the handicapped find themselves on the front line

Philippe Pozzo di Borgo, the man who inspired the film Untouchables, “leader of the anti-euthanasias” as he was described in Le Parisien in October 2022.

The sponsor of the “Soulager mais pas tuer” (Soothe but do not kill) collective, who recently left us in early June, signed a column in Ouest France in December 2022 calling for people to sign for his appeal “Help us to live, not to die”, which has already been signed by tens of thousands of supporters. His commitment has been followed by others. Edwige Mouttou, 44 years old and suffering from Parkinson’s these last 9 years, published an open letter during the citizens’ convention to the pro-euthanasia philosopher André Comte-Sponville : “To give the freedom of resorting to assisted suicide is to allow society to pressurise certain people to have the decency to ask for death and not to be a burden”. In another example, Caroline Brandicourt, suffering from a degenerative disease and spokesperson for the collective has just completed a 1200 km cycle ride across 12 departments which lack palliative care, to ask for their widespread availability everywhere and for all.

She stated that  “The saddest, the most depressing thing, is neither dependence, nor the illness but in fact the loneliness and the feeling of rejection and exclusion. The very idea of euthanasia, cuts my enthusiasm and discourages me. »

On 28th June, some 111 people concerned by handicap or old age signed a column echoing the manifest by the 109. Most of which in good health, the signatories of the manifest campaigned to claim “a right to die”, published in March 2023 in L’Obs. Those most concerned replied: “We, the handicapped, shackled in our bodies, dependent, physically or mentally handicapped, suffering from serious illnesses such as cancer or Lou Gehrig’s disease, certain of us, being old or close to death and anonymous, we are simply asking to be considered, accompanied and encouraged”.

From abroad, Theo Boer, professor of the ethics of health and ex-member of the committee for the control of euthanasia in the Netherlands, warns France against the will to legislate. He explains that no restrictions ever hold. He notes the steady increase in the number of euthanasias in the Netherlands, a gradual extension of the criteria (to minors, the handicapped, mental disease), and an increase in the number of suicides. He explains that in his country people call for euthanasia for fear of being a burden. It is one of the reasons, if not the main reason, for calling for an administered death.

All these essential warnings should be a wake-up call to our governors.

 

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