Film relaunches Euthanasia debate

Screenshot from the film trailer - Cinémas Gaumont Pathé

A French film about a man and his dying mother has put the spotlight back on the right to die

A FRENCH film about a man’s difficult relationship with his dying mother has put the euthanasia debate back in the public eye.

Quelques heures de Printemps, by Stéphane Brizé, out in cinemas this week, tackles the topic of “dying with dignity”. The main character, Alain, 48, has to go back home to live with his mother, and finds out she is incurably ill.

The end-of-life debate had gone off the radar slightly since July, when it was announced that President Hollande had appointed a medical professor, Didier Sicard, to do a study into the possibility of euthanasia in “exceptional cases”. His conclusions are expected by the end of the year.

One of Hollande’s pledges as a candidate was to allow the choice to die for people in the advanced or terminal phases of incurable illnesses and in unbearable pain. However the choice of Prof Sicard, claimed to have a Catholic bias, was unpopular with some supporters of the right to die.

The present “Leonetti law” [named after the MP and doctor who drafted it] merely states that doctors do not have to pursue “relentless” attempts to keep a dying person alive regardless of quality of life. It also allows for doctors to let someone die if they have asked not to have medicines, food or drink.

Opponents to active euthanasia, backed by the Roman Catholic church, say people who are properly cared for and given the right painkillers do not want to die. They add there are too many risks of pressures (deliberate or otherwise) from family. Letting someone die is an “abandonment” of them, Mr Leonetti said in a Connexion interview last year.

Parti Chrétien-Démocrate leader Christine Boutin has said that “delivering a killing permit is not noble or dignified”.

However a recent Harris Interactive survey found 91% of people in France support the right to choose to die for those who are incurably ill.

The president of pro-euthanasia group ADMD wrote on online news site Slate.fr: “The Leonetti Law is the law of death from hunger and thirst. How dare people say that people don’t suffer? It’s a law made for doctors by doctors.”

Previous stories:

There is no right to death
President launches euthanasia debate

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