“Ultimate freedom” against “major transgression”: the National Assembly reopens Thursday a passionate debate on euthanasia, which however risks not going to its end due to lack of time in the face of a barrage of thousands of amendments.
The bill proposed by deputy Olivier Falorni opening a right to “a free and chosen end of life” divides all the groups, which moreover let their elected representatives express themselves in conscience.
“Obviously it is a difficult question, philosophically, ontologically. There is no easy answer”, recognizes the socialist Boris Vallaud.
The text is presented for first reading within the framework of a day reserved for the Freedoms and Territories group of Mr. Falorni, long-time defender of a right to euthanasia for people suffering from an incurable disease.
It would open up the possible recourse to “active medical assistance in dying” for any person “capable and of age, in advanced or terminal phase of a serious and incurable disease”, who cannot be “appeased” or deemed by her “unbearable”.
“The French are ready, they are waiting for this great law of freedom” assures Mr. Falorni, who was inspired by several foreign examples, in particular Belgium.
Sign of the wide echo of his cause at the Palais Bourbon, Mr. Falorni received the support of some 270 deputies from all sides, not far from the absolute majority, in a column published by the Journal du Dimanche.
Among his supporters, the presidents of four parliamentary groups: Jean-Luc Mélenchon (LFI), Valérie Rabault (PS), Olivier Becht (Agir) and Bertrand Pancher (Freedoms and territories).
His opponents, however, intend to counter its adoption in the constrained time of parliamentary “niches” – cleaver at midnight – with an avalanche of amendments, more than 3,000, including 2,300 from a handful of LR deputies.
An “obstruction” denounced loudly by supporters of Mr. Falorni, to which these opponents respond with the “imprescriptible right” of any parliamentarian to table amendments.
Additional time difficulty: the examination of this text will not start until after another on regional languages.
– “decriminalization” –
Maneuver for maneuver, 227 supporters of euthanasia have tabled an amendment of the head, which will be discussed first, guaranteeing the heart of the device: “active medical assistance in dying”.
Its adoption would offer them a symbolic victory, failing to be able to pass the rest of the text, and would put pressure on a very lukewarm government on this subject.
However, many parliamentarians deplore that such a social issue comes from a minority opposition group – 18 deputies of various persuasions – rather than from a government project, impact study and opinion of the Ethics Committee at the ‘support.
The heavy context of the health crisis is also considered unfavorable by some. The deputy and president of RN Marine Le Pen considers “indecent” to reopen this debate at a time when “we are fighting to save lives”.
Hostile parliamentarians argue that it would first be necessary to better apply the current Claeys-Leonetti law, which provides for deep and continuous sedation that can lead to death, but without active euthanasia.
Five years after its adoption, 26 French departments still do not have a palliative care unit, they deplore.
Basically, “to include in the law that giving death would become a sort of ultimate therapeutic solution shocks us”, wrote LR deputies, authors of numerous amendments, led by Xavier Breton.
They have strong support in the person of Jean Leonetti, co-author of the current law, who sees active euthanasia as a “major transgression”.
“We are in the process of decriminalizing what legally is called homicide,” he told AFP.
Famous voices were raised in both camps: the singer and actress Line Renaud to support “essential progress”, the writer Michel Houellebecq to believe that with this law, France would lose “all right to respect”.
The government has so far shown little inclination to legislate. Emmanuel Macron had not made a commitment in 2017, except to indicate that he would personally prefer to choose his end of life. Its Minister of Health Olivier Véran wants to make the current law better known.
Questioned Wednesday in the Senate, Secretary of State Adrien Taquet remained evasive: “Consultations, contributions from experts must still be continued” with a view to “an informed debate”, he said.
parl-cr / reb / cs / ao