France assisted dying bill blocked by 5 centre-right party MPs

The MPs submitted more than 2,158 amendments to the controversial bill, effectively meaning it cannot be voted on as planned

5 April 2021
The Social Affairs Commission debating the assisted dying bill. France assisted dying bill blocked by 5 centre-right party MPs

The Social Affairs Commission (pictured) had debated and voted for the bill, but it has now been blocked by 3,000 amendments Pic: Agnes Firmin Le Bodo / @agnesfirmin / Twitter

By Hannah Thompson

A proposal to legalise assisted dying for people with incurable diseases has been blocked in the French parliament, largely by five opposition party MPs.

The MPs from the opposition party Les Républicains submitted 2,158 amendments to the bill, of a total of 3,000. This means the proposal is very unlikely to be adopted as planned on Thursday April 8.

MP Olivier Falorni, who submitted the bill, denounced the move as an “obstruction” by a “handful of MPs” to the debate “of a major social subject”. 

The bill states it is aiming to offer “the right to a free and chosen end of life”. But, as it would effectively legalise voluntary euthanasia for people with incurable diseases, it is controversial.

Such a large number of amendments to the bill mean that - if each amendment is to be discussed properly - it will be impossible to pass the proposal in a single day, delaying its adoption.

The amendments have prompted criticism from all sides.

In an open letter to le Journal du Dimanche, 270 MPs from parties on all sides in favour of the bill complained: “We want to debate. We want to vote. The time for Parliament has come. Please let us respect that.”

Signatories to the open letter included Jean-Louis Touraine, Yaël Braun-Pivet (from ruling party La République En Marche), Marine Brenier (Les Républicains), and four presidents of political parties, Jean-Luc Mélenchon (La France Insoumise), Valérie Rabault (Parti Socialiste), Olivier Becht (Agir) and Bertrand Pancher (Libertés et territoires).

The letter continued: “This question has been asked in our society for 40 years. Several texts have been submitted to the Assemblée [Nationale] and the Senate since 2017. 

“Our citizens are asking us, are expecting us to debate, for the majority of them, for an adoption of this law.”

MP Matthieu Orphelin, former member of the Libertés et territoires party, said that “the shameful obstruction from the LR [MPs] will stop the vote on Thursday, for an end of life law”.

He said that “alone, five MPs from Les Républicains (Xavier Breton, Patrick Hetzel, Julien Ravier, Frédéric Reiss and Marc Le Fur) submitted more than 2,158 amendements”.

‘Essential progress’

The bill by Mr Falorni is intended, proponents say, to update and clarify the law on the sensitive issue of end-of-life and voluntary euthanasia, five years after the Claeys-Leonetti law permitted continued and deep sedation of people suffering incurable illnesses.

Mr Falorni, a former socialist party member, admitted that his bill is broaching “existential questions”.

He said that making euthanasia legal would be the “ultimate freedom”, and would fix the current legal “hypocrisy” that means France turns a blind eye to the people who travel to Belgium and Switzerland to end their life, and to the “2,000 to 4,000 secret” voluntary deaths that take place every year in France, “sometimes without knowledge of their loved ones”.

Line Renaud, face of the assisted dying group l’association pour le droit de mourir dans la dignité (ADMD) last weekend wrote an open letter to MPs, calling for them to give “each person the possibility of choosing the end of their life. This is essential progress that we can no longer prevent”.

And Jean-Luc Roméro, ADMD president, who has launched a petition and open letter to President Emmanuel Macron, denounced the MPs’ action as a “denial of democracy”.

He said: “Five MPs are refusing to allow a majority of MPs to adopt a law on the final frontier of liberty. They have submitted hundreds of amendments, because this debate cannot continue past midnight on April 8. We must condemn this denial of democracy!”

The subject of assisted dying has long been controversial, with some MPs saying that such a delicate subject cannot be discussed quickly, and others arguing against any legalisation at all, due to religious or personal beliefs.

Related stories

I helped my partner to take their own life 
Right-to-die activist postpones death, continues campaign
Man to let himself die after Macron refuses medical aid

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