• France's news in English
 

French couple, 86, slam 'cruel' law in suicide note

Dan MacGuill · 25 Nov 2013, 13:57

Published: 25 Nov 2013 13:57 GMT+01:00

France has been moved in recent days by the suicide of Georgette and Bernard Cazes, a couple, both aged 86, who took their own lives together in a luxury Paris hotel on Friday.

The couple, together since their teens, checked into the world-famous Hotel Lutetia on Thursday night and at some point in the night, they took medication designed to induce a painless death, according to Le Parisien. The couple also ordered breakfast to be delivered to their room in the morning to ensure they would be found quickly.

Georgette and Bernard were discovered dead, hand-in-hand, in their bed on Friday morning by a member of staff.  Two letters were left by their bedside.

On Monday it was revealed that one of them contained a scathing attack on France’s prohibition of euthanasia.


Bernard and Georgette Cazes, pictured at the age of 29, in 1956; Photo: Screengrab/Le Parisien

“By what right can a person be forced into a cruel [situation], when they wish to end their life peacefully?” asked the letter, parts of which were quoted in Le Parisien on Monday.

“Isn’t my freedom only limited by the freedom of others? By what right can they prevent a person [from ending their life peacefully], when they’ve paid their taxes, have no debts to the state, have worked all their lives, and then done voluntary service?”

Georgette, in particular, expressed her anger at being denied the “gentle death” they sought, by France’s long-standing ban on euthanasia.

Underlining the couple’s determination, their eldest son told Le Parisien on Monday that they had made their decision to die together “several decades ago.”

“They feared being separated or dependent, more than they feared death,” he added.

The episode has reignited a debate in France about the legal status of assisted suicide and euthanasia. That debate will only be inflamed by news on Tuesday that a second couple, also both aged in their eighties had committed suicide together at their home in Paris. The couple also left behind a note explaining their actions.

A 2005 law here made it legal for doctors to administer pain-killing medication at a level they know will, as a secondary effect, shorten a patient’s life.

It remains forbidden, however, to deliberately withhold treatment or nutrition that would prolong life, or to administer drugs with the primary effect of ending a patient’s life (“active euthanasia”).

A French ethics council this summer recommended legislation allowing some measure of passive euthanasia, but expressly forbidding "Swiss-style" active euthanasia.


The lobby of the famous luxury Hotel Lutetia in Paris, where Georgette and Bernard Cazes spent their last night together. Photo: Gary Bembridge

French President François Hollande has promised to bring a bill before the French parliament by the end of 2013.

For his part, Jean-Luc Romero, president of the Association for the Right to Die with Dignity, told The Local on Monday that without a new law on euthanasia, those who wished to end their lives before a prolonged and painful sickness or period of decline, would continue to be forced to use drastic means to do so.

"Unfortunately, the fate of this couple is typical. There are many elderly French people who are forced every year to take their own lives in very unpleasant ways," he said, adding that this case proved beyond doubt that the time had come for French law to change.

"Quite simply, we need a new law which allows people in similar circumstances to this couple, to be able to seek assistance from doctors and to pass away peacefully and with dignity, in the company of their loved ones," he added.

Bernard Cazes, a "brilliant" economist, philosopher and senior bureaucrat, interviewed in 2009. Photo: La Quinzaine Litteraire/Vimeo

Friends and neighbours, meanwhile, have been effusive in their praise for the couple, who for decades worked as “brilliant intellectuals” – Bernard an economist and philosopher, and Georgette a teacher of literature and Latin, who wrote school text-books.

“They had such dynamism, such strong willpower,” one neighbour in the Paris suburb of Issy-les-Moulineaux told Le Parisien, others describing them as “distinguished” and “charming.”

“They were a couple who loved each other, you could see it. I can understand how one living on without the other would have seemed impossible,” said another.

They had lived, said their neighbour Jeannine, as they died: “Always arm in arm.”

For more news from France, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

Dan MacGuill (dan.macguill@thelocal.com)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
French drug dealer held for giving free samples
On the handwritten leaflet the dealer added a taped half gram of cannabis resin. Photo: Police Nationale

French drug dealer held for giving free samples

2 hours ago

A man in central France has been hauled in by the police after he reportedly gave out flyers advertising his product - together with a free sample of cannabis resin.

Top French MP quits 'leftist' Green party
French MP and former member of Ecological-Green Party (EELV) Francois de Rugy gives a press conference. Photo: Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP

Top French MP quits 'leftist' Green party

3 hours ago

One of the leaders of the ecologist parliamentary group, François de Rugy, has resigned from France’s Green Party, claiming that the party has moved too far to the left.

Minister: 35-hour week not working in France
French Economy Minister Emmanual Macron. Photo: AFP

Minister: 35-hour week not working in France

5 hours ago

France's Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron took aim at France's 35-hour working week on Thursday, saying the Socialists were wrong to think life would improve if people worked fewer hours.

French traffic headaches forecast as holidays end
Being stuck in a car or a train will not be pleasant this weekend. Photo: AFP

French traffic headaches forecast as holidays end

3 hours ago

School's back next week - and the weekend traffic is forecast to be a nightmare as everyone returns home from their holidays. Here's what you need to know.

Ligue 1
Kurzawa out of clash with former club Monaco
Paris Saint-Germain newly recruited defender Layvin Kurzawa. Photo: Miguel Medina/AFP

Kurzawa out of clash with former club Monaco

4 hours ago

New Paris Saint-Germain signing Layvin Kurzawa will miss an immediate return to former employers Monaco on Sunday due to an ankle injury.

French fraudster targets women called Josette
Several Josettes in France have been targeted by the fraudster. Photo: Duru/Flickr

French fraudster targets women called Josette

6 hours ago

French women named Josette are advised to be on their guard after three women with that name were targeted by a fraudster in the northern city of Rouen. Several other Josettes are also thought to have been targeted.

Scarlett Johansson loses war on French book
The decision to republish comes one year after Delacourt was ordered to pay the star €2,500 ($3400) for his depiction of her in the novel. Photo: AFP

Scarlett Johansson loses war on French book

8 hours ago

A French novel based on American actress Scarlett Johansson which the star sought to ban has now been translated into English and will be published in the UK within weeks, British media has reported.

UN to meet in Paris over minorities hit by Isis

UN to meet in Paris over minorities hit by Isis

9 hours ago

A UN conference on minorities persecuted by the Islamic State group will be held on September 8th in Paris, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said on Thursday.

French journos 'try to blackmail' Morocco king
King Mohammed VI. Photo: AFP

French journos 'try to blackmail' Morocco king

9 hours ago

Two French investigative journalists were arrested on Thursday in Paris on suspicion of trying to blackmail the king of Morocco, legal sources in both countries said.

Police evacuate France's oldest shanty town
Roma community members walk with their belongings after the forced evacuation of their camp on Thursday. Photo: AFP

Police evacuate France's oldest shanty town

1 day ago

A 300-strong Roma population was evicted from a shanty town in the northern suburbs of Paris on Thursday, despite a strong call for the camp to remain.

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS

IN PICS: Police evict 300 people from France's oldest shanty town
11-year-old boy miraculously survives six-storey fall in Paris
Features
Take a look at some of the wackiest bars you can find in Paris
National
Feminist stunt sees French road signs changed for the day
National
Two men jailed after 'Charlie Hebdo 2' scare
National
French minister calls for tougher train security after foiled attack
National
President Hollande condemns arson attack on mosque
TIMELINE: What exactly happened on the Paris-bound "terror train"?
Travel
Could coaches overtake trains when it comes to travelling in France?
Train gunman: Islamic extremist or homeless misfit?
Meet the five heroes who foiled the French train attack
National
France set for 'tourism record' of 85 million visitors in 2015
National
Paris students are helping police to warn Asian visitors about crime
Naked couple found dead beside French fortress
Europe's biggest science museum burns in Paris
Robber found half-naked and asleep in French beauty salon
National
Here are eight tips for blending in with the French while at the beach
Humans of Paris: We meet the man changing our perception of Parisians
National
France reveals new plans for Sunday and late-night shopping
Read about this revolutionary kidney op in a Toulouse hospital
National
Panic after four dogs 'poisoned' after walks in Paris park
France hit by huge summer spike in abandoned pets
National
France boils in second hottest summer ever
Technology
Meet Max - the first person in France to receive a 3D-printed hand
Politics
French minister admits to 'Obama engagement' tweeting mishap
Features
From giant bubbles to treehouses - here are the craziest hotels in France
National
How would you like to spend a night in the Palace of Versailles?
French manager paid to do nothing for 12 years
Features
We talk to Calais residents about their migrant crisis
National
Cow spared after fleeing from abattoir in France
FIVE reasons why everyone should visit Calais... yes Calais
Travel
France for adrenaline junkies: Ten crazy things to do
VIDEO: Slingshot elastic breaks on ride at French theme park
This plant might spell the end of the Asian hornet invasion
Who says the French don't like speaking English
National
It may be trickier to find a baguette in Paris this August
Killers of French student were 'inspired by Breaking Bad'
Ten must-see French gems you probably never thought of visiting
Is it time for France to force Britain to move border back across Channel?
Is romance in France just a "heterosexual concept"?
Can YOU pronounce these ten French town names?
Dog buried alive sparks French social media fury
New plan to get shy French chatting on trains
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se