Hollande towards euthanasiaby Valentina Ascione - 2012.08.01
Is death only an inescapable event, or also a right? That is one of the big questions governments are often and often called to face with. In France, the debate on euthanasia has been going on for years, but it made a comeback a few weeks ago, when the new French President announced a reform of palliative treatment.
During his election campaign, Hollande had promised to the terminally ill over 18, or in advanced stage of incurable disease, the possibility to ask medical assistance to end their life decently. Easier said than done, underline the French press, highlighting how Hollande positions appear less clear now than during the days of his campaign.
It seems, however, that the Socialist leader intends to remain faithful to his commitments. In the last few days, he gave mandate to Didier Sicard – National Ethics Committee President in the period 1999-2008 – to explore the latest stages of life.
Sicard and his work team will have to study how to assist the patient in his difficult path towards death, to evaluate palliative care and, if necessary, to define measures meant to improve the enforced legislation: the Leonetti Law, which allows to avoid therapeutic obstinacy since 2005.
Before understanding if and how French legislation will change on this matter, we know for sure that euthanasia was legalized ten years ago in half Europe.
The first country to recognize direct euthanasia was the Netherlands in 2002, followed by Belgium. And, then, with more or less restrictive laws – by Luxembourg, Switzerland and Great Britain, where the interruption of treatment for some disease is authorized since 2002 and the notion of assisted suicide “motivated by compassion”. Sweden legalized passive euthanasia (interruption of life-sustaining treatment) in 2010, accepted on patient demand in Germany and Austria too.
In other countries, such as Denmark, Norway, Tcheck Republic and Spain, the patient can refuse treatment, while in Portugal euthanasia is forbidden, but an ethical committee can authorize treatment interruption in particularly serious cases. Euthanasia is instead an offence in Italy, Bosnia, Croatia, Greece, Ireland, Poland, Romania and Serbia.
According to figures from the Royal Dutch Medical Association, 4 thousand people every year were helped to die since 2002, but euthanasia legalisation in the Netherlands did not translate into a boom of assisted suicide. And this confirms that what is a right for everybody is not an obligation for nobody.
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