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France considers euthanasia law

Senators vote in favour of assisted suicide legislation at committee stage ahead of full vote next week

FRENCH senators have made a first step towards legalising assisted suicide, but the proposed law looks unlikely to go much further.

The senate's social affairs committee voted by 25 votes to 19 in favour of the euthanasia bill yesterday, which would allow a "fast and painless" death for patients in the "advanced" stage of a serious illness.

The draft law is a merged version of three separate proposals put forward by senators from the Socialist party, UMP and Parti de Gauche.

It will debated in the Senate on January 25. French newspaper reports this morning admit that the bill's passage through parliament and into the law books is "difficult to envisage".

The first article states that "any mature person, in the advanced or terminal phase of a accidental or pathological affliction that is grave or incurable, causing physical or psychological suffering that cannot be relieved, can request to receive medical assistance to die".

This is the first time that the Senate has considered a law specifically dealing with euthanasia.

Ile-de-France regional councillor Jean-Luc Romero, who is president of the Association pour le Droit à Mourir (the right to die association), said in a statement: "For the first time in our country's history, the first parliamentary step has been passed in favour of legislation for assisted suicide."

However, a group of UMP senators said in a joint statement that the law was "regrettable" and went against existing legislation that "aims to protect the weakest and most vulnerable and offer help to those who are in a dangerous situation".

The 2005 Loi Leonetti governs end-of-life issues and gives patients the right to refuse further medical treatment, but does not permit euthanasia.

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