Professor Didier Sicard concludes after his study of the issue, that assisted suicide could be considered in certain cases of progressive incurable illnesses.
Under current French legislation, enshrined in the 2005 so-called Leonetti Law, it is illegal to give patients medication which will kill them, but legal to administer pain relief, which might have the side effect of shortening life.
Opposition UMP Parliamentarian Jean Leonetti, largely responsible for the existing law, welcomed the new report’s conclusion to maintain France’s ban on euthanasia, and suggested that there was no need for any change in legislation.
He said that the details of the 2005 law were often not understood and that the law was not always applied.
He declared that he himself did not favour allowing assisted suicide, as legalised in the US state of Oregon, because it would “break society’s solidarity with the most vulnerable”
But in an interview with French radio station Europe 1, Marie Humbert, who helped her tetraplegic son to die in a widely publicised case in 2003, said she was “enormously disappointed” with the recommendations of the new report.
She said she knew of many mothers who had helped their children to die, with the unofficial help of sympathetic doctors, and that it was a very difficult secret for them to bear.
The report is critical of doctors on the issue of pain relief, and condemns a culture which it says focuses on treatment and does not sufficiently emphasise efforts to reduce suffering, despite the existence of effective drugs.
The authors also say that doctors sometimes appear deaf to the distress and wishes of patients, and they recommend that palliative care should form part of all medical training.