The French Senate has approved a new law which allows doctors to keep terminally ill patients sedated until they die.
The move follows a 2005 law which legalised ‘passive euthanasia’ – where any treatment needed to keep a person alive can be withdrawn.
France’s President, François Hollande, has previously supported euthanasia but has been met with stiff resistance by ethics experts, who say that it is “dangerous to society” and a threat to the vulnerable.
The new ‘sedated dying’ law will allow terminally ill patients to request “deep, continuous sedation altering consciousness until death”.
Doctors will be allowed to cease providing life-sustaining treatments, including food and water, and use sedation and painkillers, even if they are likely to shorten the person’s life.
Patients who are unable to express their wishes could also be ‘sedated’ after doctors have consulted with their family.
The Bill was approved by members of the French Assembly last March, but it has only recently been considered by Senators.
In 2013, François Hollande announced that his Government would introduce a Bill by the end of the year to legalise voluntary euthanasia.
But he was staunchly opposed in a report by the national ethics committee, who said they were not reassured by the record of euthanasia policies in Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands.
The report said: “These countries legalised euthanasia for patients in the terminal stage who are able to decide for themselves, but in practice the target group has progressively grown broader and been extended to vulnerable groups in society.”