France’s Macron pushes on with assisted-dying bill

President Emmanuel Macron has said that he will propose a bill legalising “aid in dying” for terminally ill people.

In an interview published on Monday, the French president said that the bill, which he plans to present to the National Assembly in May, would strictly apply to adults suffering from short to medium-term illnesses, such as final-stage cancer. The move comes on the back of polls suggesting public support.

The law, Macron told French newspaper Liberation, “traces a path which did not exist until now and which opens the possibility of requesting assistance in dying under certain strict conditions”.

Macron announced moves towards legislation on assisted suicide in the autumn. A lengthy consultation process was then initiated. A majority came out in favour.

The bill would allow adults suffering from an incurable illness and capable of forming their own views to be prescribed a lethal substance that patients will administer themselves or with the help of a third party.

The substance can be administered at the patient’s home, in care homes for the elderly or care centres. Medical experts will have 15 days to respond to the request for help to die, and an approval will be valid for three months, during which time the patient can retract, Macron said.

If medical professionals reject the request, the patient can consult another medical team or appeal, he added.

Prime Minister Gabriel Attal wrote on X that the bill would be presented to the French Parliament from May 27. “Death can no longer be a taboo issue and subject to silence,” he added.

Long-standing debate

Debates around how to approach intentional life-termination practices are long-standing across Europe.

While some people argue that administering fatal medication is legalised “murder”, others say it offers a dignified death to those suffering.

Macron, in the interview, hesitated to call the proposed aid “euthanasia” or “assisted suicide”. The first sees a physician administer a fatal dose to end a patient’s life. In the second, patients take medication to end their lives themselves, while being assisted by medical caregivers.

Several of France’s neighbours, including Belgium and Germany, allow either assisted suicide or euthanasia under strict conditions. However, both those measures are banned in France, mainly due to pressure from religious associations.

France’s Catholic bishops categorically rejected the bill on Monday.

“A law like this, whatever its aim, will bend our whole health system towards death as a solution,” Archbishop Eric de Moulins-Beaufort, head of the French Bishops’ Conference, told La Croix.

A 2016 French law, called Claeys-Leonetti, authorises deep and continuous sedation but only for people whose prognosis is threatened in the short term.

The new bill will build on the results of a citizen’s convention launched in 2022, where a group of 184 randomly appointed French citizens debated the issue over two years.

In their conclusion last year, more than half of the group said they favoured allowing some form of assistance to die for those who want it.

About 53 French patients travelled to neighbouring Belgium for euthanasia procedures in 2022, out of a total 61 abroad-based patients, according to Belgium’s Federal Commission for Control and Evaluation of Euthanasia.

Last week, the French Parliament enshrined the right to abortion in the constitution, a widely popular move championed by the president and a world first.


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