French medical body for euthanasia in 'exceptional' cases

February 14, 2013

France's medical ethics council said Thursday that assisted suicide should be allowed in exceptional cases when suffering patients make "persistent and lucid requests" in a step forward to legalising euthanasia.

Invoking a "duty to humanity," the body said that this should be permitted upon the "persistent, lucid and repeated requests from someone suffering from an ailment for which the treatment has become ineffective".

But it said the condition should be verified "not by a sole doctor but a medical team".

The council did not use the term but spoke of "assisted death".

President Francois Hollande had referred a report on allowing assisted suicide to the council to examine the precise circumstances under which such steps could be authorised, with a view to producing by June.

"The existing legislation does not meet the legitimate concerns expressed by people who are gravely and incurably ill," Hollande had said.

The report submitted to the council said physicians should be allowed to authorise interventions that ensure quicker deaths for terminal patients in three specific sets of circumstances.

In the first case, the patient involved would be capable of making an explicit request to that effect or have issued advance instructions in the event of him or her becoming incapable of expressing an opinion.

The second scenario envisages medical teams withdrawing treatment and/or nourishment on the basis of a request by the family of a dying patient who is no longer conscious and has not made any instructions.

The third would apply to cases where treatment is serving only to sustain life artificially.

The author of the report, Professor Didier Sicard, stressed that he did not support any measures which "suddenly and prematurely end life".

"We are radically opposed to inscribing euthanasia in law," Sicard told a press conference.

He also stressed that he was not advocating Swiss-style clinics where people are provided with lethal medication to enable them to end their own lives.

Instead, Sicard said he favoured amendments to a 2005 law which already authorises doctors to administer painkilling drugs at levels they know will, as a secondary effect, shorten a patient's life.

Sicard's report was drawn up after extensive consultation with the terminally ill and their families which revealed widespread dissatisfaction with a "cure at all costs" culture in the medical establishment.

According to France's national demographics council, there were about 3,000 euthanasia cases in the country annually on average, all of them illegal.

Explore further: Report recommends France legalise 'accelerated deaths'

Related Stories

Report recommends France legalise 'accelerated deaths'

December 18, 2012
France should allow doctors to "accelerate the coming of death" for terminally ill patients, a report to President Francois Hollande recommended Tuesday.

Netherlands euthanasia and assisted suicide rates in 2010 comparable to rates before legalization

July 10, 2012
After legalisation of euthanasia and assisted suicide by the Dutch government in 2002, the number of cases was found to have decreased in 2005. Although the frequency of euthanasia and assisted suicide in the Netherlands ...

Dutch group launch mobile mercy killing teams

February 29, 2012
Six specialised teams, each with a doctor, will criss-cross the Netherlands as of Thursday to carry out euthanasia on patients at home whose own doctors refused to do so, a pro-mercy killing group said.

UK experts: Assisted suicide legally possible

January 5, 2012
An independent panel of experts in the U.K. says there is a strong case for changing British law to help terminally ill people die.

Dutch, Belgians mark decade of 'mercy killings'

March 30, 2012
Ten years after they became the first countries to legalise euthanasia, the Netherlands and Belgium now provide assisted suicide to 4,000 people a year.

Reported Dutch euthanasia cases rise

September 26, 2012
(AP)—The number of doctor-assisted suicide cases reported in the Netherlands grew by 559 between the years of 2010 and 2011, a commission says.

Recommended for you

Exploring the potential of human echolocation

June 25, 2017
People who are visually impaired will often use a cane to feel out their surroundings. With training and practice, people can learn to use the pitch, loudness and timbre of echoes from the cane or other sounds to navigate ...

Team eradicates hepatitis C in 10 patients following lifesaving transplants from infected donors

April 30, 2017
Ten patients at Penn Medicine have been cured of the Hepatitis C virus (HCV) following lifesaving kidney transplants from deceased donors who were infected with the disease. The findings point to new strategies for increasing ...

'bench to bedside to bench': Scientists call for closer basic-clinical collaborations

March 24, 2017
In the era of genome sequencing, it's time to update the old "bench-to-bedside" shorthand for how basic research discoveries inform clinical practice, researchers from The Jackson Laboratory (JAX), National Human Genome Research ...

The ethics of tracking athletes' biometric data

January 18, 2017
(Medical Xpress)—Whether it is a FitBit or a heart rate monitor, biometric technologies have become household devices. Professional sports leagues use some of the most technologically advanced biodata tracking systems to ...

Financial ties between researchers and drug industry linked to positive trial results

January 18, 2017
Financial ties between researchers and companies that make the drugs they are studying are independently associated with positive trial results, suggesting bias in the evidence base, concludes a study published by The BMJ ...

Best of Last Year – The top Medical Xpress articles of 2016

December 23, 2016
(Medical Xpress)—It was a big year for research involving overall health issues, starting with a team led by researchers at the UNC School of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health who unearthed more evidence that ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.