France begins citizens' debate on end-of-life care

Getty Images via AFP - JOE RAEDLE

A panel of 150 members of the public are meeting Friday to begin discussing whether or not to adopt legislation that would legalise assisted dying, in line with President Emmanuel Macron’s wish to “serenely” debate this deeply divisive issue.

The 150-citizen assembly, modelled on the 2019-2020 Citizen’s Climate Convention, was chosen at random but weighted according to age and geographical origin.

Participants will consider whether to change the 2016 Claeys-Leonetti law which bans euthanasia (where doctors administer lethal drugs) and medically assisted suicide (where doctors make such drugs available), but allows terminally ill patients to refuse treatment and receive "deep and continuous sedation until death".

The question they’re asked is a simple one: "Is the framework accompanying the end of life adapted to different situations or should changes be introduced?”

The assembly will meet for regular three-day sessions between now and March before sending their recommendations to parliament.

As with the Citizen’s Climate Convention, there is no guarantee the government will implement the group's findings.

Major ethical change

A recent poll showed 78 percent of French citizens are in favour of establishing a “right to die”.

But public opinion should not be the gauge in bringing about such a significant change in the law says Thierry Beaudet, the head of the Economic, Social and Environmental Council (Cese) organising the panel.

Read more on RFI English

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