• France's news in English
 
app_header_v3

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.

Story continues below…

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
Paris gig 'a sacred duty', says US rocker
Jesse Hughes prepares for Saturday's gig in Stockholm. Photo: Gustav Maartensson / AFP

Paris gig 'a sacred duty', says US rocker
12 hours ago

Eagles of Death Metal rock Stockholm in first concert of European tour.

No time to lose in Libya says French FM
Forces loyal to Libya's Islamist-backed General National Congress prepare to launch an attack on the Islamic State stronghold of Sirte in March 2015. Photo: Mahmud Turkia/AFP

No time to lose in Libya says French FM
1 day ago

Libya's parliament has given itself until Sunday to form a unity government.

France's 104-year-old twins say closeness key
Twins Paulette Olivier and Simone Thiot at their retirement home in Onzain. Photo: Gillaume Souvant/AFP

France's 104-year-old twins say closeness key
1 day ago

"We are still alive because we have always stayed close," says one. "We pity old people who are alone."

Survivors torn by Eagles of Death Metal Paris gig
Jesse Hughes (L) and Josh Homme of Eagles of Death Metal. Photo: AFP

Survivors torn by Eagles of Death Metal Paris gig
1 day ago

"I like the symbolism of going but I will not risk fainting just to say I was there."

'Hyper-terrorism is here to stay,' says French PM
French Prime Minister Manuel Valls meets Russian prime minister Dmitry Medvedev in Munich. Photo: Christof Stache / AFP

'Hyper-terrorism is here to stay,' says French PM
1 day ago

"Large-scale attacks. It's a certainty."

French turning to web to find love (but they won't admit it)
Photo: AFP

French turning to web to find love (but they won't admit it)
1 day ago

A new survey shows the French are turning to dating apps more and more to find their lovers, although many won't admit it.

A French ministry for women, kids, cooking and cleaning?
Photo:AFP

A French ministry for women, kids, cooking and cleaning?
2 days ago

You might as well have a ministry for "women, kids, cooking and cleaning", angry French feminists tell the government after the latest reshuffle.

Facebook vs France
Facebook to face trial in France over nude painting
THe Gustave Courbet painting "The Origin of the World" Is it art or pornography? Photo: AFP

Facebook to face trial in France over nude painting
2 days ago

Is it art or pornography? A huge row over the posting on Facebook of a famous painting of female genitalia will be thrashed out in a French court after a landmark ruling on Friday.

IN IMAGES: Bordeaux floods after heavy rain in south west
Photo: Laure Urbano/twitter

IN IMAGES: Bordeaux floods after heavy rain in south west
2 days ago

See what happens when the mighty Garonne river bursts its banks in Bordeaux on Friday.

France fires warning to Britain over eurozone veto
David Cameron and Francois Hollande. Photo: AFP

France fires warning to Britain over eurozone veto
2 days ago

France warned Britain on Friday it could not expect to win veto powers over closer integration of the eurozone single currency area in talks on its own future in the EU.

Sponsored Article
US taxes and FATCA: 'The time for hiding is over'
Lifestyle
Forget the EIffel Tower - Revealed: The real romantic spots in Paris
Sponsored Article
Back to Boho chic: Win your new season wardrobe
DNA tests on bomb vest suggest unknown Paris attacker still at large
Gallery
Ten expat complaints about their French lovers
Gallery
French expressions for having sex you won't find in your dictionary
What happened to liberté, égalité, fraternité in France?
'France just isn't what it was and it needs guns,' says Donald Trump
Features
Notre-Dame-des-Landes: Does France really need a new airport?
National
France's deadliest coach crashes since 1973
Business & Money
Champagne and cognac lead record French alcohol exports
Politics
Scandals and deals: Fabius bows out (but he won't be short of cash)
Society
The English called 'barbarians' after this 'massacre' of French crepes
National
This terrifying video shows why you should avoid the sea during a storm
Lifestyle
A closer look at the 11 different American expats you'll meet in France
Gallery
Ten reasons why France is a great place to work
Politics
Why France is unlikely to force UK to move border back home
Society
The French foods you need to eat (in moderation) to stay healthy
Lifestyle
So where do all the Americans live in France and where do they avoid?
Public warned as gale force winds and giant waves lash the French coastline
Lifestyle
How Paris plans to become a 'model' of cleanliness - that's not a joke
Only in France - Pig's entrails, cheese and steak sold in vending machines
Travel
Wait... that's not snow! Check out France's most unique ski slope
Culture
Don't panic, France isn't bidding a final adieu to the circumflex
Culture
VIDEO: UK group performs Shakespeare for Calais refugees
3,438
jobs available