• France edition
 
French couple, 86, slam 'cruel' law in suicide note
"They feared being separated or dependent, more than they feared death." File photo: Ivan Mlinaric

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

Published: 25 Nov 2013 13:57 GMT+01:00
Updated: 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.”

Don't miss stories about France, join us on Facebook and Twitter

Dan MacGuill (dan.macguill@thelocal.com)

Don't miss...X
Left Right

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
French Iliad founder says T-Mobile offer is 'real'
Photo: Joel Saget/AFP

French Iliad founder says T-Mobile offer is 'real'

French telecom upstart Iliad's founder said Friday that the company's offer for US-based T-Mobile is "real" and that he is open to working with partners on a deal. READ  

Air France grounds flights ahead of strike
Photo: Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP

Air France grounds flights ahead of strike

Air France has cancelled some of its short and medium-haul flights from airports across France on Saturday due to a strike by ground staff on one of the busiest travel days of the year. READ  

Tête-à-tête - August in Paris
'You'd have to be crazy to stay in Paris in August'
Is Paris in August heaven or hell? Photo: Bertrand Guay/AFP

'You'd have to be crazy to stay in Paris in August'

The eternal debate of whether staying in Paris for the month of August is pure joy or punishment is taken up here by The Local's Joshua Melvin and Ben McPartland. They debate the heat, tourists, Paris plages, and the seductive call of the rest of France. READ  

Foreigners less likely to get jobs than French
Foreigners in France are more likely ti turn up in queues at job centres it seems, than locals. Photo: AFP

Foreigners less likely to get jobs than French

Foreigners from outside the EU suffer from a much lower employment rate in France than native citizens and EU immigrants, a study confirmed this week. READ  

French PM takes a swipe at eurozone's policies
French MP Manuel Valls has blasted the eurozone's economic policies. Photo: Pierre Andrieu/AFP

French PM takes a swipe at eurozone's policies

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls has launched a timely tirade against European finance chiefs for their ineffective economic policies. It comes as indicators show the French economy's recovery is lagging behind its neighbours. READ  

Holiday travel chaos
Steer clear of French motorways, drivers told
Stay off the roads in France this weekend, unless you need to travel that is, in which case prepare for delays. Photo: AFP

Steer clear of French motorways, drivers told

Drivers in France are being warned to steer clear of French motorways on Friday night and Saturday. With July and August holidaymakers set to cross over, the weekend is set be one of the busiest of the year on French roads. READ  

Plan to make stores give unsold food to charity
French lawmakers are trying to make it illegal for big supermarkets to throw away food. Photo: Anne-Christine Poujoulat/AFP

Plan to make stores give unsold food to charity

A collective of French lawmakers have proposed legislation that would force larger supermarkets to donate out of date food to charity rather than throw it away. The politicians behind it say waste is “the scourge of our consumer society.” READ  

France gets tough on anti-Semitism and racism
France's top cop cop urges crackdown on anti-Semitic acts. Photo: Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP

France gets tough on anti-Semitism and racism

France’s 'top cop' has been forced to remind local authorities of their duty to report all acts of racism and anti-Semitism to law enforcement officials so culprits can be prosecuted. The move comes as the Gaza crisis has led to increased tensions in France. READ  

Paris police lose 51 kilos of cocaine at HQ
Police police are looking for 51 kilos of cocaine they have lost. Photo: Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP

Paris police lose 51 kilos of cocaine at HQ

Paris police have lost 51 kilos of cocaine that were locked up in the legendary police headquarters in the city centre. This embarrassing lapse comes mere months after a much more serious case of misconduct at the same building. READ  

French bombard Google with pleas to be forgotten
Thousands of French have bombarded Google with requests to be forgotten - more than any other nationality in Europe. Photo: AFP

French bombard Google with pleas to be forgotten

French internet users have bombarded Google with requests for links to be deleted from the search engine, but the internet giant has told European officials it's proving difficult to clear their memories. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Travel
Air France strike set to hit holidaymakers. Latest info here
National
France honours Jean Jaurès, 100 years after he was assassinated
National
Nudity on the beaches of France: Dos and don'ts
National
Hospital opens patient wine bar with 'medically supervised' wine tasting
Society
Will France ban this violent Jewish fringe group?
Culture
Why are the days of going topless in France coming to an end?
Travel
Reckless or adventurous? US dad takes his two children up Mont Blanc
National
From manure to money: Ten bizarre facts about the French Parliament
Culture
Tourists picnic with rats in Louvre gardens
International
Is France really Europe's biggest public spenders?
National
Could your job in France soon be done by a robot?
National
Why you should think twice about feeding stray cats in France
National
And the new redrawn map of France will look like...?
Politics
Is French President François Hollande about to tie the knot?
International
Want a long-term visa? You may soon have to take a French test
International
Votes for foreigners: 'France would be giving up its sovereignty'
National
VIDEO: Stuntman jumps onto a moving Paris metro... and survives
Gallery
Forget 'faire l'amour', here's 15 top French expressions for making love
National
Report - 'Anti-Semitic' riots in France: 'We may leave for Israel'
National
Paris Plages: Here's 10 reasons to head down to the city beach
International
'Mont Blanc is like Disneyland. It's time to end the free-for-all'
Travel
Fancy climbing Mont Blanc? Here's 10 reasons to think twice about it
Gallery
Looking for a weird museum in Paris? Here's 10 that are worth a visit
Sponsored Article
CurrencyFair: Why it pays when making overseas transfers
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