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POLITICS

French MPs to debate legalising euthanasia

A bill to legalise euthanasia goes before a deeply divided French parliament on Thursday, with right-wingers planning to torpedo any vote with thousands of amendments and the government not taking sides.

French MPs to debate legalising euthanasia
The bill is being debated in the French parliament on Thursday. Photo: Ludovic Marin/AFP

If the draft law were to pass, France would become the fifth European Union country to decriminalise assisted suicide, after the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg and Spain.

The bill was brought by Olivier Falorni, deputy for the parliamentary splinter group Libertes et Territoires (“Freedom and Territories”), whose handful of MPs range from the centre-right to the centre-left.

Using Thursday’s National Assembly time allotted to his party, Falorni plans to fight for the bill which he said raises “existential questions”.

The law, he argues, would end what he said was a national “hypocrisy” because French residents often travel to Belgium or Switzerland for assistance in suicide, while French doctors already secretly performed an estimated 2,000 to 4,000 acts of euthanasia every year.

Current law allows deep sedation of patients who suffer from incurable illnesses, but not to end their life, or help them end their own life.

Legalising euthanasia is supported by many MPs, including a majority of President Emmanuel Macron’s own party, the LREM.

Neither Macron nor his government have weighed in on the debate, although the president is on the record as saying in 2017: “I myself wish to choose the end of my life”.

MPs hostile to euthanasia have filed 3,000 amendments ahead of the debate which will slow down Thursday’s proceedings to the point of making any vote in the allotted timeframe impossible.

Of the total, 2,300 amendments were brought by MPs from the centre-right Les Republicains.

Falorni told AFP that the filings amounted to “obstruction” while his former party colleague Matthieu Orphelin called the amendments “shameful” as they made sure there could be no vote on Thursday.

“We want to debate. We want to vote. Parliamentary time is here. Let us respect it,” 270 deputies from across the political spectrum said in an article published in the Journal du Dimanche newspaper on Sunday.

Line Renaud, a much-loved singer, actress and activist, published an open letter on Saturday calling on parliament to give “every woman and every man the possibility to choose the end of their life”.

Like in Spain, whose parliament last month became the latest in the EU to approve euthanasia, the Catholic church in France is strongly opposed to euthanasia.

“The solution when a person faces suffering is not to kill them, but ease their pain and accompany them,” the archbishop of Paris, Michel Aupetit, told France Inter radio.

While some parliamentarians are opposed to euthanasia on ethical or religious grounds, others have said the subject is too important to be handled in just one day of National Assembly proceedings.

If, as is expected, time runs out before any vote Thursday, another time slot will have to be found in parliament’s busy legislative schedule.

Some deputies have said the debate could be revisited in the run-up to next year’s presidential election.

The issue was given new momentum in France last year by the case of terminally ill Frenchman Alain Cocq who planned to refuse all food and medicine live stream his death on social media.

He abandoned his initial bid after saying the suffering became too intense.

Cocq had written to Macron in September asking to be given a drug that would allow him to die in peace, but the president wrote back to say it was not possible under French law.

“Your wish is to request active assistance in dying which is not currently permitted in our country,” Macron wrote in response.

Member comments

  1. For heaven’s sake who’s life is it? If an illness becomes too much to take it is the right way to end the suffering both for the patient and family. My friend who is in his eighties has had a stroke and now has Alzheimer’s. His wife who also is ill has to do everything for him. He has no idea where he is and talks gibberish. At times he becomes violent out of frustration. When one has to change nappies on an eighty year old man that used to be a scientist and now just sits asleep most of the time it’s time to call it a day.

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POLICE

France proposes getting rid of penalties for ‘minor’ speeding offences

The French government is considering changing speeding laws so that drivers will not lose points on their licence if they are caught going just a few kilometres over the speed limit.

France proposes getting rid of penalties for 'minor' speeding offences

France’s Interior Ministry is considering changing its current rules for minor speeding violations – proposing getting rid of the penalty for drivers who only violate the rule by going just a few kilometres over the speed limit.

The Ministry has not laid out a timeline for when this could come into effect, but they said they are currently in the preliminary stages of studying how the change could be carried out.

“The fine of course remains,” said the Interior Ministry to French daily Le Parisien.

That is to say you can still be fined for going five kilometres over the speed limit, but there might not be any more lost points for driving a couple kilometres over the posted limit. 

READ ALSO These are the offences that can cost you points on your driving licence

Of the 13 million speeding tickets issued each year in France, 58 percent are for speeding violations of less than 5 km per hour over the limit, with many coming from automated radar machines.

How does the current rule work?

The rule itself is already a bit flexible, depending on where the speeding violation occurs.

If the violation happens in an urban area or low-speed zone (under 50 km per hour limit), then it is considered a 4th class offence, which involves a fixed fine of €135. Drivers can also lose a point on their licences as a penalty for this offence. 

Whereas, on highways and high-speed roads, the consequences of speeding by 5 km per hour are less severe. The offence is only considered 3rd class, which means the fixed fine is €68. There is still the possibility of losing a point on your licence, however. 

How do people feel about this?

Pierre Chasseray, a representative from the organisation “40 Millions d’Automobilistes,” thinks the government should do away with all penalties for minor speeding offences, including fines. He told French daily Le Parisien that this is only a “first step.”

Meanwhile, others are concerned that the move to get rid of points-deductions could end up encouraging people to speed, as they’ll think there is no longer any consequence.

To avoid being accused of carelessness, France’s Interior Ministry is also promising to become “firmer” with regards to people who use other people’s licences in order to get out of losing points – say by sending their spouse’s or grandmother’s instead of their own after being caught speeding. The Interior Ministry plans to digitalise license and registration in an effort to combat this. 

Ultimately, if you are worried about running out of points on your licence, there are still ways to recover them.

You can recover your points after six months of driving without committing any other offences, and there are also awareness training courses that allow you to gain your points back. It should be noted, however, that these trainings typically cost between €150 and €250, and they do not allow you to regain more than four points.

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