France takes steps to legalize assisted suicide for terminally ill patients

President Emmanuel Macron says measure provides 'simple and humane' option for some who suffer

By Chris Benson
French President Emmanuel Macron (pictured in 2022 at the White House) recently called a new assisted-suicide measure a 'simple and humane' option for many people who suffer. File Photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI
French President Emmanuel Macron (pictured in 2022 at the White House) recently called a new assisted-suicide measure a 'simple and humane' option for many people who suffer. File Photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI | License Photo

April 10 (UPI) -- The French government on Wednesday introduced an end-of-life care bill as an option for mentally competent and terminally ill adults.

On Wednesday, the legislation was given to the Council of Ministers, where it will be debated over the next six weeks before being presented on May 27 to the National Assembly. From there, it will then go to the French Senate for final approval.


"Among other things, it provides for the introduction of 'aid in dying' under certain conditions for patients at the end of their lives who are affected by 'physical or psychological suffering' as a result of their illness," France's Labour and Health Minister Catherine Vautrin, said.

If the bill -- which aims to improve palliative care access for French citizens -- is approved, assisted dying could become legal in France by 2026 and would join 30 other places around the globe that allow an individual to end their life.


"This text is very balanced because it is not euthanasia," Vautrin said Wednesday on a French television show.

"It is based on the wishes of the patient and medical expertise," she added.

President Emmanuel Macron -- who said early March that a bill was in the works -- had promised an extra $1 billion in funding for palliative care in France over the next ten years.

As it stands and if approved, a candidate must be a French citizen or reside in the country and be at least 18 years old with an incurable disease, capable of expressing their choice "in a free and informed manner," and they must show "resistant or unbearable" suffering.

If a doctor has approved, a patient with a valid three-month prescription will be able to take the lethal dose at home or other healthcare facility with help if needed. But those with severe or other neurodegenerative issues like Alzheimer's disease will be deemed not eligible.

In an interview published Monday in France, Macron called the bill "simple and humane."

A draft of an assisted dying bill was introduced into the Scottish Parliament in the United Kingdom at the end of March.


The Netherlands legalized euthanasia in 2001 followed by neighboring Belgium in 2002, Luxembourg in 2009, Spain in 2021 and Portugal last year in 2023.

Assisted suicide in Italy has been decriminalized since 2019, Germany since 2020 and Austria since 2022.

Sarah Wootton, the chief executive of Dignity in Dying, called it "a historic day for end-of-life-choice in France."

"With France one step closer to law change and debates pressing ahead in Scotland, Jersey and the Isle of Man this year, reform in England and Wales cannot come soon enough," Wootton said in a prepared statement.

"The upcoming General Election will be a defining moment for terminally ill people in this country: will candidates listen to their wishes and support law change, or will they remain out of touch with a growing international trend towards giving citizens true choice at the end of life?"

But France's Catholic bishops in March expressed their "great concern and our deep reservations with regard to the bill announced on the end of life."

The discussion over end-of-life scenarios comes as France in early March became the first nation to make abortion a constitutional right.

Vauntrin said the pending legislative debate over the bill "will require an enormous amount of listening, an enormous amount of humility...and an enormous amount of respect for freedom of conscience."


"We reaffirm our attachment to the French way of refusing induced death," the French bishops said in a joint statement.

If you or someone you know is suicidal, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988.

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