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Assisted suicide may be allowed

Report says doctors should provide sedatives leading to coma and death if patients demand – but rules out euthanasia

19 December 2012

DOCTORS may be allowed to prescribe sedatives that will lead to the deaths of terminally-ill patients under recommendations in a new report to President Hollande.

Prof Didier Sicard, the former president of the Comité Consultatif National d'Ethique, had been asked by the Élysée to look at end-of-life care for patients, and to examine whether France should allow “assisted suicide” so patients could die with dignity.

He concluded that “it is better to do right by the needs and expectations of citizens with respect to the end of life” and, with 56% wanting the right for medical aid to die, to allow that to happen.

However, he also severely criticised current medical care of terminally-ill patients in France and called for the development of better palliative care regimes.

Prof Sicard said medical practitioners should be allowed to administer opiates that would lead to a coma and then death. This would only be in cases where patients had made repeated requests for help to die.

He said it would be “cruel to ‘let someone die’ or to ‘let someone live’ without offering them the possibility of a medically-assisted gesture that would speed death”. He added that the decision could only be taken if the conscience of the doctor allowed it and after discussion with medical colleagues.

Elsewhere, the report from the Mission Sur la Fin de Vie contains a recommendation that assisted suicide, where a doctor provides a lethal substance to a patient to take themselves, should be allowed in certain cases, after discussion amongst medical colleagues.

It dismisses the idea of active euthanasia as “a radical medical gesture” that crossed “a forbidden barrier” – and was both impractical and immoral.

The Elysée announced this morning that the Comité Consultatif National d'Ethique would be asked to look at the report and advise on putting it into practice with a view to a law before parliament in June 2013.

Read the pdf of the report on the Elysee website

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