French deputies are due to debate on Thursday a bill on the end of life in cases of serious and incurable diseases, tabled by deputy Olivier Falorni. While a transpartisan majority is emerging despite the reluctance of the government, the text could be the victim of the obstruction of a handful of deputies.
This is news that caused a stir among the political class. Aged 71, the former Secretary of State of Lionel Jospin for the elderly, Paulette Guinchard-Kunstler, made the choice to die, on March 4, in Switzerland, by resorting to medically assisted suicide. A decision which illustrates a personal development – she was opposed in 2005 to the legalization of euthanasia in France – and which would reflect, according to several parliamentarians, the evolution of French society as a whole.
“This is the perfect example of the flaws and insufficiencies of the current legislation”, explains Olivier Falorni, member of the Radical Left Party (PRG), contacted by France 24. “Paulette Guinchard-Kunstler was suffering from a neurodegenerative disease incurable and, faced with mental and physical suffering, found itself without a response from the medical profession, ”he explains.
Heart touching. It is time to move on.
Committed since 2017 alongside elected officials, associations and citizens, I will continue to defend the ultimate freedom: that of dying with dignity. I will vote for the bill on the right to a free and chosen end of life.https: //t.co/tFxlTfsTxm
– Laurianne Rossi (@lauriannerossi) March 14, 2021
The elected representative of Charente-Maritime tabled a bill on the end of life which will be examined, Thursday, April 8, in the National Assembly. He is not the only one to want to move forward on this issue since no less than four other proposals have been made since the start of the five-year term, both from La France insoumise (Caroline Fiat in 2017) and from La République en Marche (Jean -Louis Touraine in 2017), the Socialist Party (Marie-Pierre de la Gontrie in 2020) or the Republicans party (Marine Brenier in 2020).
“This shows that the current law is not enough, judge Olivier Falorni. France remains in a hypocritical logic of ‘let die’: we stop the care then we do a deep and continuous sedation; if it does not last long, so much the better , and if it lasts, too bad. It is not a humane solution to treat the end of life of citizens with respect. “
The Claeys-Leonetti law, passed in 2016, makes it possible to offer certain patients with serious and incurable diseases a sedative treatment, that is to say drugs that numb and soothe the patient until his death, without waking him up. . It has also made binding, but not enforceable, the advance directives, by which any adult can stipulate his refusal of a relentless therapeutic. In the absence of instructions, the will of the person who can no longer speak can be relayed by a trusted person, expressly designated in writing and whose testimony “prevails over any other testimony”.
Problem: the current legislation is not always applied – the French hospital is sorely lacking in resources for palliative care – and, above all, does not respond to the variety of situations. Thus, between 2,000 and 4,000 clandestine euthanasies are carried out each year in France, according to the National Institute of Demographic Studies (INED). And several dozen people a year make the same choice as that of Paulette Guinchard-Kunstler by going abroad to die.
“Teaching doctors to listen to patients”
It is therefore urgent to act, according to Olivier Falorni, who benefits from cross-party support, including that of the “walker” Jean-Louis Touraine. A doctor by training, president of the study group on the end of life in the National Assembly, the deputy LREM from the Rhône had tabled a similar bill in 2017, dragging in its wake 167 deputies from the presidential majority. He is now working hand in hand with Olivier Falorni, in particular to add amendments on the prioritization of family opinions or on training.
“There is unanimity to say that we die badly in France and the situation has further worsened with the Covid-19 epidemic, underlines Jean-Louis Touraine, contacted by France 24. Today, a patient in end of life does not have the right to express his request and is subject to medical decision. When I was a medical student, we were told that death was a failure. Now we have to teach doctors and nurses to listen to the sick and stop explaining to them why they are not free to decide. “
The subject would have become “consensual”, according to Jean-Louis Touraine and Olivier Falorni. Both are based on an Ipsos poll from March 2019 claiming that 96% of French people [1 004 personnes ont été interrogées pour ce sondage] are in favor of the right to choose their end of life.
However, executive support is currently lacking, and the government could put pressure on LREM deputies to vote against the text. “I do not believe that the moment chosen to modify the legal regime of the end of life is the right moment”, declared, on March 11, the Minister of Health, Olivier Véran, during the examination of the proposal of Law of the Socialist Senator Marie-Pierre de la Gontrie. According to him, “the main stake is not so much to develop [la loi Claeys-Leonetti] than to make it known “.
“The current law establishes in law a framework which makes it possible to resolve the vast majority of difficult situations that patients, their families and sometimes the healthcare communities can experience”, added Olivier Véran, announcing the launch in April of a new plan development of palliative care and end-of-life support.
The subject is all the more delicate since Emmanuel Macron did not make the commitment, during his campaign in 2017, to legislate on euthanasia. However, after four years at the Elysee Palace during which he moved politically to the right, the President of the Republic undoubtedly prefers to advance cautiously on such a social issue.
3,000 amendments tabled
Moreover, oppositions exist. “Giving death is a major transgression that deserves a great public debate. We cannot be satisfied with a debate in the Assembly over half a day or a poll that is too restrictive”, contends the author of the current legislation, the former LR deputy Jean Leonetti, contacted by France 24. “Because when you get into the complexity of the subject, the answers become less clear-cut. The end of life is a conflict of values: the doctor is torn between the desire to respect the patient’s freedom and the desire to protect him. The right balance must be found. “
The current mayor of Antibes also stresses that it may be very difficult to maintain a strict framework concerning people likely to request active medical assistance to die. “If I have had an accident, find myself in a wheelchair for the rest of my life and find my physical or mental suffering unbearable, I will have the right to ask for death? Who will judge the personal suffering of such or such person? “asks the elected official, who is also a cardiologist.
>> To read also: “Legislating on the end of life in France: what is the rest of Europe doing?”
Fears relayed within the Assembly, where a handful of deputies opposed to euthanasia have chosen to play the card of parliamentary obstruction. Since the text was adopted on March 31 in the Social Affairs Committee, no less than 3,000 amendments have been tabled, including 2,300 at the initiative of four LR deputies.
However, the bill on the end of life is presented at first reading during a day called “parliamentary niche”, that is to say reserved for an opposition group – in this case the Freedom group. and Territories to which Olivier Falorni belongs. Therefore, the examination time is limited to Thursday and will not go beyond midnight, which may prevent the final vote.
Surrounded by a dozen deputies representing all the groups of the Palais Bourbon, Olivier Falorni pleaded Tuesday for “this ultimate freedom which is still denied to the French”. Despite the upcoming parliamentary guerrilla war, “this text will be defended” Thursday in the Chamber, he promised, with the support of 270 deputies, almost the majority, who recently signed a platform in the Chamber. Sunday Newspaper.
As for the criticisms, the member for Charente-Maritime sweeps them away with the back of his hand. “The criteria are extremely precise and clear: one must be suffering from a serious and incurable disease at an advanced stage of the disease and generating physical and psychological suffering. It is not a question of responding to depression with help. active to die for. “
“And as far as public debate is concerned, if there is one social issue that has been debated many times, where everyone has been consulted, with the exception of the National Assembly, it is this. There, regrets Olivier Falorni. This argument is no longer tenable. I have tons of reports on my desk. There is even a form of weariness among the experts to express their position in hearing. The debate has reached maturity. The time is no longer for procrastination but for action. “
In Europe, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg and, most recently, Spain have already passed laws allowing the administration of a drug causing death.