France approves terminal sedation legislation


By Alex Schadenberg, International Chair - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Politicians in France have been debated the legalization of euthanasia for many years. 

In January 2011, the French Senate rejected a euthanasia bill by 170 - 142. During the 2012 election President François Hollande promised to legalize euthanasia but since then Hollande has faced strong opposition to his plan. In June 2015, France's Senate rejected a bill that permitted euthanasia by dehydration and in October 2015, a French court decided that Vincent Lambert should continue to receive food and fluids.

The Associated Press has now reporting that French lawmakers approved a bill that allows "terminal sedation" but not euthanasia. 

According to the media report the French government approved a bill that allows doctors to sedate a person, upon request, who is nearing death, and withdraw life-sustaining treatments including nutrition and hydration (food and water). According to the article:

The new law will allow patients to request "deep, continuous sedation altering consciousness until death" but only when their condition is likely to lead to a quick death. Doctors will be allowed to stop life-sustaining treatments, including artificial hydration and nutrition. Sedation and painkillers will be allowed "even if they may shorten the person's life." 
The bill will also apply to patients who are unable to express their will, following a process that includes consultation with family members. 
The methods can involve medicating patients until they die naturally of their illness or until they starve. Some doctors, however, say it may be more human to euthanize.

I have not read the bill, but if the bill allows doctors to intentionally cause the death of a person by dehydration, when the person is not otherwise dying, then the act is "slow euthanasia" or euthanasia by dehydration. If the bill clearly limits sedation and dehydration to people who are actually nearing death, then the act is closer to palliative sedation.

Link to the full article

Euthanasia doctor convicted in France

By Alex Schadenberg, International Chair - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

A French court convicted an emergency room doctor of euthanasia.

Nicholas Bonnemaison was found guilty and given a two year suspended sentence for deliberately killing an 86 year-old woman . He was originally prosecuted for seven counts of intentionally killing patients, but the court acquitted him on the six other charges. 

According to The Local Bonnemaison also lost his medical license:

Bonnemaison, who has been struck off the medical register, was accused of "poisoning particularly vulnerable people" -- five women and two men who died between March 2010 and July 2011 soon after being admitted to the hospital in the southwestern city of Bayonne where he worked.

Bonnemaison was not accused of overdosing his patients, accidentally or otherwise, he was accused of intentionally killing his patients by lethal injection.

French court decides to allow Vincent Lambert to receive food and water

Vincent Lambert

Vincent Lambert

By Alex Schadenberg, International Chair - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

A French court decided, yesterday, that Vincent Lambert could continue to live. The court decision supported the position of Lambert's parents, was that Lambert would continue to receive food and water. Lambert's wife wanted feeding to cease which would cause him to die by dehydration.

On June 5, 2015; the European Court of Human Rights decided that Vincent Lambert, a cognitively disabled man, could have his food and water withdrawn causing his death by dehydration. Lambert's parent's appealed the ruling of the European Court of Human Rights.

Lambert has been living with a significant cognitive disability since his motorcyle accident in 2008.

According to the RFI news, the judges said:

Lambert's doctors were within their rights, based on their "professional and moral independence," to suspend an earlier court decision that would have seen them cut the intravenous food and water keeping him alive. 
...the decision to stop intravenous feeding can be undertaken "solely by the doctor in charge of care." The hospital may not oppose it. 
The judges also ruled that the previous medical decision could not be imposed on a new doctor. 
This judgement throws the burden of responsibility back on to the doctor, 

To intentionally withdraw fluids from a person who is not otherwise dying is a form of euthanasia by omission because the person directly and intentionally dies from dehydration and not from a medical condition.

Parents of cognitively disabled man appeal death by dehydration order in France

By Alex Schadenberg, International Chair - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition.

Vincent Lambert's mother

Vincent Lambert's mother

On June 5, the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg Germany decided that Vincent Lambert, a cognitively disabled man who lives in France, could have his food and water withdrawn causing his death by dehydration.

Yesterday, the French media reported that Lambert's parents appealed the decision of the European Court of Human Rights. His parents and two siblings intend to protect him from death by dehydration. After the Strasbourg court decision Lambert's mother, Viviane stated:

“It’s scandalous. They are condemning my son. We will remain by Vincent’s side and will continue to fight,"

Lambert's parents referred to death by dehydration as being "akin to torture."

The Strasbourg court decision should concern people who believe in human equality. Lambert is not dying, but is cognitive disabled. This precedent setting court decision may cause other people with cognitive disabilities to be dehydrated to death.

Wesley Smith: France debates slow euthanasia

This article was published on Wesley Smith's blog on June 16, 2015.

By Wesley Smith

Wesley Smith

Wesley Smith

Sigh. If the euthanasia pushers can’t get people dead one way, they try another.

The French Senate is debating legalizing terminal sedation for the terminally ill who want it. From the Yahoo story:

France’s debate over end-of-life care goes to the Senate, with a bill that would allow doctors to keep terminally ill patients sedated until death comes, but stops short of legalizing euthanasia and assisted suicide. 
Euthanasia is currently legal in the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg, and recent polls show a large majority of French people favor legalization. But French lawmakers haven’t been willing to go quite that far, in a debate that is arising at the same time as the wrenching family dispute surrounding Vincent Lambert, a Frenchman in a coma since a car accident seven years ago.

But terminal sedation is “that far,” just via a slower process than lethal injection, as this part of the story makes clear:

The new bill would give people “the right to deep, continuous sedation until death.” Some doctors say it can mean patients are sedated for weeks, and that euthanasia may be more humane.

That’s killing by slow motion because it involves putting a patient into a coma and depriving them of food and fluids so they dehydrate to death.

Link to the full article

European Court of Human Rights orders France to dehydrate Vincent Lambert to death

Vincent Lambert's mother

Vincent Lambert's mother

By Alex Schadenberg, International Chair - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

The European court of Human Rights ordered France to withdraw fluids from Vincent Lambert, a 38 year-old man with cognitive disabilities.

The case came about when Lambert's wife wanted her husband to have his fluids withdrawn to cause his death while his parents wanted to continue caring for him.

The Telegraph newspaper reported that Lambert's wife stated after the Strasbourg court decision that withdrawing fluids will fulfill her husbands wishes while Lambert's mother, Viviane stated:

“It’s scandalous. They are condemning my son. We will remain by Vincent’s side and will continue to fight,"

This decision should concern people who believe in the equality of every human being. Lambert was not dying, but has a cognitive disability. This decision means that people with cognitive disabilities, who are incapable of speaking for themselves, may be intentionally dehydrated to death.

The decision of the European court of Human Rights is considered a precedent case in all of the 47 European states.

Deep Sedation: France is in danger of buying a deadly illusion

Dr Kevin Fitzpatrick OBE, is the director of EPC International and lives near Avignon, France.

Dr Kevin Fitzpatrick

Dr Kevin Fitzpatrick

France is in danger of buying a deadly illusion: that terminal sedation is neither assisted suicide nor euthanasia. In the Netherlands it can be both, and the numbers of people being terminally sedated there are growing at an alarming rate. From the minute the Assemblée Nationale should pass any such legislation, terminal sedation will become the lie to hide the practice of euthanasia throughout France too.

On Tuesday March 17, 2015 the French parliament overwhelmingly voted to give people the right to demand terminal sedation – that is, for them to be made unconscious in their last hours and days. We have been warning about the steep rise in the use of terminal sedation in the Netherlands, as a form of ‘back-door’ euthanasia.

In the Netherlands, only informed adults who meet all the criteria of the Dutch law are counted as euthanasia deaths. None of those who are unable to give informed consent, a key element of the Dutch law, are counted. So no neonates killed because of their disabilities, no older people with dementia, or those in persistent coma, no-one who finds some doctor willing to ‘grant’ them a euthanasia death because they fail to meet Dutch legal criteria. Those who die through terminal sedation are not generally counted either, but the rise in their numbers is frightening.[1]

Even in those cases where deep sedation is a serious consideration, for those few individual people whose refractory symptoms cannot be managed by modern palliative medicine, profound questions remain to be answered. But in the 1990s this group was estimated at below 5% of all cases.[2] Today palliative care specialists, and advances in their field, mean that fewer than 2% of patients are faced with terminal sedation as their only option.[3] Of course every individual deserves our best response, but if their numbers are falling why then should terminal sedation be on the rise at all? In the Netherlands or anywhere else?

Link to the full article