A bill to legalize euthanasia is submitted to a deeply divided French parliament on Thursday, with the right planning to torpedo any vote with thousands of amendments and the government not taking sides.
If the bill passes, France would become the fifth country in the European Union to decriminalize assisted suicide, after the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg and Spain.
The bill was presented by Olivier Falorni, deputy of the dissident parliamentary group Libertes et Territoires, whose handful of deputies range from center-right to center-left.
Using Thursday’s National Assembly time allotted to his party, Falorni plans to fight for the bill which he says raises “existential questions”.
The law, he argues, would put an end to what he called national “hypocrisy” because French residents often traveled to Belgium or Switzerland for assisted suicide, while French doctors were already practicing secretly about 2,000 to 4,000 acts of euthanasia each year.
The current law allows for deep sedation of patients suffering from incurable diseases, but not to end their life, nor to help them end their life.
The legalization of euthanasia is supported by many deputies, including a majority of President Emmanuel Macron’s own party, the LREM.
Neither Macron nor his government weighed in on the debate, although the president said publicly in 2017: “I want to choose the end of my life myself.”
MPs hostile to euthanasia tabled 3,000 amendments before the debate, which will slow down Thursday’s work to the point of making it impossible to vote within the time limit.
Of this total, 2,300 amendments were made by members of the center-right Les Républicains (LR), an opposition party.
Falorni told TBEN the deposits were an “obstruction” while his former party colleague Matthieu Orphelin called the amendments “shameful” because they ensured there was no vote Thursday.
“We want to debate. We want to vote. The parliamentary hour has arrived. Let us respect it,” said 270 deputies from all political backgrounds in an article published in the Sunday newspaper of the JDD.
Line Renaud, popular singer, actress and activist, published an open letter on Saturday calling on Parliament to give “every woman and man the opportunity to choose the end of his life.”
As in Spain, whose parliament last month became the EU’s last to approve euthanasia, the Catholic Church in France is strongly opposed to euthanasia.
“The solution when a person faces suffering is not to kill him, but to relieve his pain and to accompany it”, declared the Archbishop of Paris, Michel Aupetit, on the radio of France Inter.
>> The epilogue of a historic case of the right to death revives the debate on euthanasia in France
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While some parliamentarians are opposed to euthanasia for ethical or religious reasons, others said the subject was too important to be dealt with in a single day of work by the National Assembly.
If, as expected, time runs out before any vote on Thursday, another time slot will have to be found in Parliament’s responsible legislative program.
Some MPs said the debate could be revisited in the run-up to next year’s presidential election.
The issue gained new momentum in France last year with the case of terminally ill Frenchman Alain Cocq, who planned to refuse all food and medication and broadcast his death live on social media.
He abandoned his initial offer after saying the suffering had become too intense.
Cocq had written to Macron in September asking him to receive medication that would allow him to die in peace, but the president responded to say that was not possible under French law.
“Your wish is to ask for active assistance in dying, which is currently not allowed in our country,” Macron wrote in response.