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HEALTH > France may allow ‘assisted suicide’

PARIS - Agence France-Presse

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This photo shows a scene from Spanish film ‘The Sea Inside,’ the real-life story of a man, who fought a 30 year campaign in favor of euthanasia.

This photo shows a scene from Spanish film ‘The Sea Inside,’ the real-life story of a man, who fought a 30 year campaign in favor of euthanasia.

France’s medical ethics council said Feb. 14 that assisted suicide should be allowed in exceptional cases when suffering patients make “persistent and lucid requests” in a step forward to legalizing euthanasia.

Invoking a “duty to humanity,” the body said that this should be permitted upon the “persistent, lucid and repeated requests from someone suffering from an ailment for which the treatment has become ineffective.” But it said the condition should be verified “not by a sole doctor but a medical team.” The council did not use the term euthanasia but spoke of “assisted death.”

President Francois Hollande had referred a report on allowing assisted suicide to the council to examine the precise circumstances under which such steps could be authorized, with a view to producing draft legislation by June.

“The existing legislation does not meet the legitimate concerns expressed by people who are gravely and incurably ill,” Hollande had said.

Three circumstances

The report submitted to the council said physicians should be allowed to authorize interventions that ensure quicker deaths for terminal patients in three specific sets of circumstances.

In the first case, the patient involved would be capable of making an explicit request to that effect or have issued advance instructions in the event of him or her becoming incapable of expressing an opinion.

The second scenario envisages medical teams withdrawing treatment and/or nourishment on the basis of a request by the family of a dying patient who is no longer conscious and has not made any instructions.

The third would apply to cases where treatment is serving only to sustain life artificially.

February/15/2013

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