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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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POLITICS

‘I’ve lost my eyebrows – but not my political ambition’, says France’s ex PM

France's former prime minister Edouard Philippe, a leading contender to succeed President Emmanuel Macron in 2027 elections, has opened up about a hair loss condition he says will not diminish his political ambition.

'I've lost my eyebrows - but not my political ambition', says France's ex PM

The 52-year-old politician, who spearheaded the government’s fight against the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic, was a familiar face on television with his trademark brown beard.

Since leaving the post in the summer of 2020 and working as mayor of the Normandy port of Le Havre, his appearance has drastically changed with his hair and beard thinning and turning white suddenly.

“This is what had happened to me: I lost my eyebrows, and I don’t think they will come back,” he told BFMTV in an interview late Thursday.

“My beard has turned white, it’s falling out a bit and the hair too.

“The moustache is gone, I don’t know if it will come back, but I would be surprised,” he said.

“I have what is called alopecia,” he added, opening up about the auto-immune condition that accelerates hair loss.

He said the condition was “not painful, dangerous, contagious or serious”.

Philippe’s wry and avuncular style proved popular with many French and some speculated that his high approval ratings had caused tensions with Macron, with replaced him as Prime Minister in the summer of 2020.

Philippe now regularly tops polls of France’s most-loved and most-trusted politicians. 

He has now founded a new centrist party called Horizons that is allied with Macron’s ruling faction but also unafraid of showing an independent streak.

Some analysts see Philippe as an obvious potential successor to Macron, who must leave office after serving the maximum two terms in 2027.

And Philippe insisted that his condition would not stand in the way of his political plans.

“That doesn’t stop me from being extremely ambitious for my city,” he said referring to Le Havre.

Tellingly, he added: “It doesn’t stop me from being extremely ambitious for my country.”

With France buffeted by strikes and protests as the government seeks to push through landmark pension reform, Philippe gave his full backing to Macron for the changes.

He said he supported the changes “without ambiguity, without any bad note or any other kind of little complication”.

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