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On the heels of abortion, France pushes “assisted dying” law

Euthanasia stop sign

Mino Surkala | Shutterstock

J-P Mauro - published on 03/13/24

The French Catholic Bishops' Conference was quick to admonish President Macron for the legislation, the phrasing of which they call "deception."

Just days after France passed legislation to amend its constitution to include a right to abortion, French President Emmanuel Macron has announced a bill that would allow terminal patients to seek “assisted dying.”

The new legislation, which eschews phrases like “assisted suicide” and “euthanasia,” drew harsh criticism from the French bishops, who called the chosen description “deceptive.” 

Agnès Pinard Legry, of Aleteia’s French edition, reports that President Macron explained that the term “assisted dying” was selected because “it is simple and humane.” He noted that the term “euthanasia” was inaccurate, because it concerns ending the life of another “with or even without their consent,” which he said was “obviously not the case here.”

The term “assisted suicide” was also out, because it refers to a “free and unconditional choice of a person to dispose of their life,” while the “assisted dying” bill would require patients to meet certain criteria. 

As for these criteria, President Macron outlined them in his March 10 announcement: Patients must be adults, they must be in control of their mental faculties, they must have an incurable, life-threatening prognosis in the short or medium-term, and finally the patient must be suffering physically or psychologically. 

Taxpayers will fund it

In his announcement, Macron noted that due to the second criterion, patients with cognitive degenerative illnesses – like Alzheimer’s disease – would be excluded from eligibility. He said, “If all these criteria are met, the possibility then opens up for the person to ask to be helped in order to die.” 

Once a patient requests “assisted dying,” a two-day mandatory waiting period must be observed in order to “test the solidarity of determination.” Then, a team of doctors must examine the case and respond within a maximum of 15 days. The report notes that patients may “withdraw at any time.” The announcement further noted that the “assisted dying” program would be funded by the national healthcare system, meaning all taxpayers would contribute to its funding.

The following day, the Catholic bishops of France were quick to admonish Macron for what Bishop Matthieu Rougé of Nanterre, called a “very bad surprise.” Aleteia’s French edition reports that they took President Macron to task for the deceptive phrasing, which led Archbishop Éric de Moulins-Beaufort, the president of the Conference of Bishops of France (CEF), to comment: 

“What is announced does not lead our country towards more life, but towards death as a solution to life. To call a text which opens up both assisted suicide and euthanasia ‘law of fraternity’ is a deception. Such a law, whatever we want, will tilt our entire health system towards death as a solution.”

Archbishop Moulins-Beaufort went on to lament that France, “a country at the forefront of palliative care,” has seemed to abandon this pursuit.

He also expressed his concern that there was no “conscience clause” to permit doctors to refuse to administer such treatments on the basis of religious or bioethical objections. He called on parliamentarians “to measure how ambiguous the announced text is.”

Meanwhile, Bishop Rougé commented:

“What strikes me is that we have the impression that in the start-up nation, non-productive people no longer have the right of citizenship,” he deplored, particularly questioning the announcement made by the president to offer this “assisted death” in nursing homes.

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