Only five years after the Claeys-Leonetti law of February 2, 2016, the debate on the end of life is relaunched in France with a pro-euthanasia offensive consisting of four bills. In the Senate, that “aimed at establishing the right to die with dignity” (n ° 131) carried by Senator Marie-Pierre de la Gontrie (PS) was rejected on March 11, 2021.
It was a text essentially incorporating a bill aimed at legalizing euthanasia and assisted suicide and ensuring universal access to palliative care drafted by the Association for the Right to Die with Dignity (ADMD) in 2018. In the National Assembly, the current pro-euthanasia offensive has taken shape with the legislative proposals n ° 3806 “aimed at guaranteeing and strengthening the rights of people at the end of life” carried by Jean-Louis Touraine (LREM), n ° 3755 “aiming to affirm the free choice of the end of life and to ensure universal access to palliative care in France” carried by Marine Brenier (LR) and n ° 288 “giving the right to a free and chosen end of life” led by Olivier Falorni (Libertés et Territoires group).
The latter will be debated on April 8. However, the government does not seem to be in favor of legalizing euthanasia immediately: in the Senate on March 11, the Minister of Health Olivier Véran declared that he “does not believe that the time chosen for modify the legal regime of the end of life is the opportune moment ”. He also announced the creation, from April 2021, of a new national plan for the development of palliative care and end-of-life support.
“We die badly in France”. This is the leitmotif of supporters of the legalization of euthanasia, which MEPs Touraine and Brenier echo in the explanatory memorandum to their bills. We can thus read that the Claeys-Leonetti law constitutes a “too restrictive legal framework” (Brenier proposal) and “presents (…) a few shortcomings, responsible for suffering and regular media cases” (Touraine proposal). The objective is therefore to change French end-of-life law by a new stage including euthanasia, so as to “put an end to a hypocrisy that has lasted too long” as soon as it seems “qu ‘between 2,000 and 4,000 people end their lives, each year in France, thanks to the active assistance in dying from a doctor ”(Touraine proposal): it would therefore be because such a practice exists clandestinely that officially authorize it. However, this conception of the law delegitimizes any prohibition or obligation, and ultimately renders the law itself useless.
Foreign laws authorizing euthanasia: models for promoters of euthanasia
Supporters of euthanasia also rely on the existence of foreign laws allowing this practice and / or assisted suicide. In Europe, this has been the case for the Netherlands since 2001, Belgium since 2002, Luxembourg since 2009 and Switzerland. In recent news, the Portuguese law on euthanasia, passed on January 29, 2021, has however just been deemed unconstitutional by the Constitutional Court on March 15, 2021. Three days later, on the other hand, it is the Spanish Senate which approved the “Euthanasia Regulation Law” passed last December.
Is it all the better to die in these countries where euthanasia is permitted? Its promoters praise these laws as being exemplary, as the present bills are largely inspired by Belgian law, which is itself close to Dutch law. According to the Touraine proposal, “The systems put in place by these countries, comparable to that proposed by this text, are framed and offer a means of control, unlike current French legislation. Moreover, they have never been called into question in these various countries as they respond to the demands of the population. For MP Brenier, the fact that other countries allow euthanasia is “proof that we must join in this process. In this sense, Belgium is a good example to follow. In 2002, the year of the legalization of this active assistance in dying, our parliamentary counterparts devised a comprehensive legal framework, bringing together both the establishment of active assistance in dying and in-depth work on their palliative care system. and therefore the end of life in general. By working on this made-to-measure framework, which would allow precise control of all these medical acts, Belgium has put forward what must also be our objective in France: the free choice of the patient above all ”. As for deputy Falorni, he writes of Belgian law that “No, it did not encourage a multitude of abuses either. On the contrary, [she] strictly defined active assistance in dying while nearly 2,000 acts of clandestine euthanasia – therefore de facto criminal – are practiced in France without any control, in a notorious manner “. The reality, however, turns out to be less exemplary than the promoters of the so-called “soft death” want to believe.
Drifts permitted by foreign laws authorizing euthanasia
In fact, abuses are notorious in Belgium as well as in the Netherlands and come from various sources . The authors of a very recent study are concerned that “several conditions of the euthanasia law that are supposed to function as safeguards and procedural guarantees, in reality, often fail to function in this way” . The conditions under which euthanasia is permitted were originally intended to be strict but have turned out to be vague and subjective, allowing wide interpretation by practitioners. In particular, the fact of allowing euthanasia in the event of mental suffering allows a number of abuses due to the difficulty of apprehending the extent of such suffering: this is how, regularly, Belgian health professionals ask that the conditions allowing such euthanasia are refined, or even that such a possibility be eliminated . In Belgium as in the Netherlands, however, the trend is towards an increase in euthanasia (officially 235 euthanasies performed in 2003 and 2,444 in 2020 in Belgium) and the gradual annihilation of the original safeguards: in 2014, the possibility of requesting Euthanasia has also been opened to minors “endowed with the capacity of discernment” without age limit in Belgium, while the Netherlands has allowed the euthanasia of newborns under certain conditions by the (unofficial) Protocol of Groningen (2005) and are considering opening up access to people tired of life and minors under 12 years old. The euthanasia mentality is progressing as shown by three studies revealing that “40% of Belgians are in favor of stopping care for those over 85” . In the Netherlands, the NVVE association has created “flying teams” and an end-of-life clinic to treat borderline cases that doctors refuse to take care of .
Control commissions with questionable effectiveness
In the Belgian and Dutch systems, commissions are responsible for monitoring the application of the law on euthanasia, but their effectiveness is widely questioned. This control is carried out a posteriori – that is to say after the death of the person – and is based on the simple declaration made by the doctor who performed the euthanasia. However, it is futile to hope to protect the lives of people with a control carried out after their death. In addition, the declarative nature of the system has an impact on the quality of the control: doubtful cases are not declared, which the chairman of the Belgian commission recognizes . A study thus reveals that around 50% of Belgian euthanasia would not have been declared in 2007 . The question of the independence of such a control commission also arises: in the Belgian case, almost half of its members come from associations campaigning in favor of euthanasia and / or are doctors. practicing euthanasia themselves: they are therefore judges and parties. Finally, one need only read the reports of these commissions to realize that they sometimes validate cases of euthanasia that are bordering on legality, or even beyond what the law provides. According to the 3rd quinquennial report (2012-2016) on the evaluation of Dutch law, “When a doctor has acted in a manner that does not comply with the criteria of thoroughness but apparently in good faith, the committee prefers to adopt an educational attitude towards him. rather than taking legal action ”. Very few files are ultimately forwarded to justice: between 2002 and 2016, the Belgian commission transmitted to the king’s prosecutor only one file out of 14,573 euthanasia.
This is astonishing when cases are regularly in the media such as those concerning the Verbessem brothers (twin brothers who are deaf and have glaucoma to make them blind), Nathan Verhelst (victim of a failed sex change operation) or Tine Nys (woman diagnosed with autism a few months before her euthanasia) in Belgium, or Gaby Olthuis (woman euthanized because she suffered from tinnitus) in the Netherlands. Dutch justice is very lax in this area, as shown in the Albert Heringa case, which saw the acquittal of a man who illegally “assisted his mother in her suicide”.
The concerns of Jean Léonetti, father of French laws relating to the end of life
It is interesting to note that the deputy Jean Léonetti, father of the Léonetti and Claeys-Léonetti laws, mentioned in a report in 2008 “Concerns about the laws and practices resulting from the legalization of euthanasia” in these two states. Regarding the Dutch system, he noted that “the application of this law has several characteristics: the criteria for evaluating the degree of the patient’s suffering are unclear, the very existence of a posteriori control making the verification more focused. the respect of the procedure only on the reality of the medical reasons; the doctor’s assessment is subjective and disregard of the law is not penalized. There is also some paradox in claiming loud and clear a right to personal autonomy and in relying with this regulation to the doctor’s decision “. Mr. Léonetti also observed that as a consequence of this “medical power” in the matter, a loss of confidence in the medical staff is visible and pushes the Dutch elderly to move to Germany. He concluded: “Dutch medical practices are badly experienced by part of the population”.
Belgian euthanasia drifts before the ECHR
The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) is currently seized of the case of Tom Mortier v. Belgium which calls into question the Belgian euthanasia drifts. The ECLJ was authorized by the Court to submit written observations to it as a third party intervening in this case. If the ECHR has never admitted a right to euthanasia , while not opposing it in principle, it has also declared itself aware that legislation legalizing euthanasia can lead to abuses and abuse: it thus noted that “we cannot underestimate the risks of abuse inherent in a system facilitating access to assisted suicide” and ruled that “in particular to protect any person from hasty decision, as well as (…) preventing abuse ” are legitimate objectives. Indeed, such abuses are foreseeable because “If death is sold as a solution to suffering and if suicide is viewed favorably when it is a doctor who provokes it, the real question is not so much. to know why some are opposed to it, but “why say yes to some, and no to others?” “. Finally, are foreign laws authorizing euthanasia so exemplary? The objectives declared by the promoters of euthanasia when the Belgian and Dutch laws were adopted were to put an end to clandestine euthanasies, to regulate requests for euthanasia and to monitor the application of the law: they have not been achieved. Yet these are the same objectives that are being put forward today by the authors of the current pro-euthanasia offensive in France.