French Senate says ‘non’ to assisted suicide bill

The French Senate has rejected proposed legislation that would have permitted any adult to request assisted suicide.

The upper legislative house voted against the bill by 170 votes to 142 on 25 January.

And the vote confirms the view of France’s National Assembly, which voted against a similar move last year by 326 to 202 votes.

Suicide’ protest

On the day of the Senate vote, a dramatic protest took place, when 700 people ‘died’ outside the Senate.

The protesters were from Roman Catholic pro-life groups, who had conducted a vigil and protest, by playing dead en masse.

The protesters were all placed in white body bags.


On the eve of the vote, Prime Minister Francois Fillon made a very public contribution to the debate by writing a column in the French newspaper Le Monde.

In it he urged the Senate to enter into further dialogue.

Euthanasia is “a limit”, said the Prime Minister, that “should not be crossed”.

Bishops’ opposition

The president of France’s bishops’ conference, Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois of Paris, said that a society’s “humanity and quality of civilisation” was measured by its “treatment of the most vulnerable”.

He believed there could be “no liberty without respect for the principle of humanity.”

He said before the vote that his country’s culture, history and responsibility toward Europe and the rest of the world required his people “to show ethical ambition with courage and enthusiasm.”

Anyone capable

If passed, the bill would have allowed “anyone capable” to request “medical assistance” to end their lives, if they had a deadly, incurable illness.

But the bill also applied to anyone in “a state of dependence that she [sic] regards as incompatible with her [sic] dignity.”

The right would also apply to those whose pain “cannot be alleviated or is considered unbearable”.

No Convention right

The vote comes after a landmark ruling in the European Court of Human Rights last week, which declared that there is no Convention right to assisted suicide for EU nationals.

In that case, the complainant said that his inability to obtain lethal drugs to kill himself was a violation of his right to privacy.

But the court said that there was an obligation on states to ensure the protection of the right to life under Article 2.

Public safety

The court’s decision was welcomed by Dr Peter Saunders, CEO of the UK’s Christian Medical Fellowship.

“The law is there primarily to protect vulnerable people”, Dr Saunders said.

He went on to say that “public safety will always trump the demands of determined individuals backed by pressure groups who want to undermine existing laws”.

Various attempts

The French Senate’s vote is the latest in a number of attempts through parliaments and courts around the world to legalise assisted suicide or euthanasia.

In April last year, a bill brought before the Canadian parliament that would have legalised euthanasia and assisted suicide was defeated by 228 votes to 59.

A similar bill in South Australia was defeated in November by a majority of 12 to 9.

And in the same month, MSP Margo MacDonald’s End of Life Assistance Bill was defeated in the Scottish Parliament by a margin of 85 votes to 16.

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