It is difficult to ignore the debate on euthanasia. To date, the end of life in France is governed, among other things, by the Claeys-Léonetti law of 2016. The latter reaffirms the patient’s right to stop all treatment, the right of access to palliative care, and the right to benefit from deep and continuous sedation until death when the vital prognosis of the patient is engaged in the short term.
According to the Ministry of Solidarity and Health, the law also makes it possible “to record advance directives to facilitate their accessibility and develop information” and to “take into account the wishes expressed in writing in the form of formalized directives which may be binding, and ensure their accessibility”.
These practices fall within the framework of legal passive euthanasia, but strictly prohibit assisted suicide, which is authorized in other European countries such as Belgium, the Netherlands and Spain.
On September 13, 2022, the Ethics Committee issued an opinion in which it accepted, for the first time, to consider the possibility of setting up “active” assistance in dying. This opinion was followed by first steps by Emmanuel Macron for a possible change in the law.
In this report, however, the committee wants to be very strict on the conditions to be met to legalize euthanasia. This request for active assistance in dying must be made in a “free, informed and repeated manner by the patient”, before being examined by a collegial procedure which will have to decree whether there is not another way to appease the patient suffering. How is it in other European countries?
Since 2002, the Netherlands has allowed euthanasia for patients aged 12 and over with an incurable disease who experience “unbearable and endless” pain. The patient must make the express request, being in full possession of his faculties, and under the medical opinion of two doctors. “In April 2020, the Supreme Court gave its approval to the euthanasia of people with advanced dementia, even if they are no longer in a condition to reiterate their wish”, specifies however La Voix du Nord. In Belgium, no age limit is set…
In 2002, like the Netherlands, Belgium authorized euthanasia for patients who expressly express their wish. They can also write an advance declaration, valid for five years, in the event that the evolution of their condition prevents them from clearly expressing their wish to die “with dignity”. Since 2014, there is no longer an age limit for children with an incurable disease.
For their part, Spain and Luxembourg also authorize euthanasia for adult patients seriously affected by an incurable disease.