The French senate has approved a law granting terminally ill patients the right to end life; it allows doctors to stop giving medical assistance when it “has no effect other than maintaining life artificially”.
It had already been approved by the lower house of parliament. Supporters of the legislation say it stops short of permitting euthanasia, because it does not allow the doctor actively to end a patient’s life.
The new law opens the way for families to request the withdrawal of life support for unconscious patients. And it allows the administration of pain-killers to patients who have chosen to end their treatment, even if these drugs might hasten death.
Health Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy was quoted by AFP news agency as saying: “As long as I am health minister, I will reject euthanasia.”
Euthanasia came to the forefront of French national attention in 2003 with the case of Marie Humbert who had worked for her crippled son’s right to die. Following this, opinion polls suggested 80% support for a change in the laws regulating euthanasia in France. [13 April 2005, BBC, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/4440027.stm;