‘Sedated dying’ law is adopted

Upper house of French Parliament approves law allowing terminally ill patients to be sedated until they die

28 January 2016

SENATORS in France have finally approved a law that allows terminally ill patients to be put into a state of ‘deep and continuous sedation’ until they die.

MPs in the Assembly, or lower house, had overwhelmingly passed the bill last March - but it has taken until now for senators in the upper house to have their say before the law could be definitively adopted.

Under the law, which stops short of legalising euthanasia or assisted suicide, doctors can stop life-sustaining treatment.

Sedation and painkillers can also be administered ‘even if they could shorten the person’s life’.

The law also makes ‘living wills’ - drafted by people who do not want to be kept alive artificially if they are too ill to decide - legally binding on doctors, unless their wishes ‘appear inappropriate or inconsistent with the medical situation’.

President Francois Hollande pledged in his 2012 presidential campaign to re-examine the law on euthanasia, which is illegal in France.

A law passed in 2005 allows so-called ‘passive euthanasia’, in which any treatment needed to keep a person alive is withheld or withdrawn. But the new law goes further, allowing doctors to put terminally ill patients into a state of 'deep and continuous sedation' until they die naturally.

The bill’s co-author Jean Leonetti, said the text meant that: “At end of your life, if the suffering is unbearable, you’ll be allowed to get to sleep, soothed and serene.”

Health Minister Marisol Touraine, who has previously said she would not support a euthanasia law, said: "This is a major breakthrough which enshrines the will of the person, freedom of the person, human dignity."

The Association for the Right to Die with Dignity (ADMD), however, issued a statement saying that the bill ‘does not represent a real step forward for end of life patients and their families’.

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Photo: Daniel Sone / National Cancer Institute / Wikimedia Commons

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