French Senate rejects legislation allowing euthanasia on demand

By  Catholic News Service
  • January 28, 2011
PARIS — The French Senate has rejected legislation that would have permitted any adult to request a "quick and painless death."

Under the draft Bioethics Law amendment, French citizens would have been entitled to seek medical help to die when "in a terminal state, or with a serious and incurable illness causing physical or psychological pain." The right would have applied when the pain "cannot be alleviated or is considered unbearable," enabling doctors to bring about the patient's death "as the outcome of a deliberate act."

During the Senate's Jan. 26 debate on the amendment, Catholic pro-life groups conducted a vigil and protest, during which about 700 people pretended to be dead.

In a Jan. 25 letter to Senate members, the spokesman for the French bishops' conference, Msgr. Bernard Podvin, said the idea of "relentless therapy" for the dying repelled French people, but added that "things affecting the most intimate, ultimate and sacred sphere and existential vulnerabilities" should not be legislated on.

Several bishops spoke against the legislation and urged Catholics to write to their senators. The bishops' conference president, Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois of Paris, said a society's "humanity and quality of civilization" was measured by its "treatment of the most vulnerable," adding that he believed there could be "no liberty without respect for the principle of humanity."

"The culture of our country, its history and responsibility toward Europe and the rest of the world, as well as its current fragility, require us to show ethical ambition with courage and enthusiasm," the cardinal said in a Jan. 14 article in the Le Figaro daily.

"As Catholics, we would have denied help to a society in danger if we had not denounced this suicidal initiative, after participating for years in a spirit of dialogue in pluralistic debate on these issues."

Doctor-assisted suicides and ''mercy killings'' were first legalized in the Netherlands in 2001 and have since been allowed under specified conditions in several European countries, including neighbouring Belgium.

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