French Assembly rejects euthanasia


A bill to legalise euthanasia under controlled conditions was defeated in the French National Assembly this week by a vote of 326 to 202. It was an initiative of Socialist deputy Manuel Valls, who had hoped to rekindle a national debate. The deputies were given a conscience vote on the issue.

The bill proposed that “all adults in an advanced or terminal phase of a serious and incurable illness which involves physical or psychic suffering which cannot be treated and which they feel is unbearable, may ask for medical help, under strict conditions, to die with dignity”.

Former Socialist prime minister Laurent Fabius argued that the bill placed the individual at the centre of decision-making and that it would lead to "d'avantage de fraternité, d'avantage d'égalité, et d'avantage de liberté" – more fraternity, more equality and more liberty.

However, former minister for education Luc Ferry, a well-known secular humanist philosopher, strongly opposed the bill in a column in Le Figaro after the vote in the Assembly. He wrote that dependency must not be equated with lack of dignity. “The notion that a human being can lose his or her value because they are weak, sick or old and lack autonomy is unacceptable ethically.”

Ferry contended that a request for death is never really free. Rather it is so conditioned by the patient’s distress that there is no freedom. He criticised utilitarian theories by which human dignity can be reduced to a calculus of pleasure and pain and recalled advice from the 17th century philosopher Blaise Pascal: there is in man something which infinitely surpasses the human condition, a transcendence which commands respect and is worth fighting for, even in the midst of suffering. – Le Monde, Nov 24; AFP, Nov 24; libertépolitique.com, Nov 26


 




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