Don’t rush into euthanasia legislation, French bishops warn

CHURCH leaders in France have warned against rushing into rash legislation to allow euthanasia, after the move was endorsed by the country’s National Advisory Council on Ethics.

“Over the decades, a balance has been struck between relentless treatment and the promotion of palliative care – this ‘French way’ has gained ground and speaks volumes about our ethical heritage,” said the Roman Catholic Bishops’ Conference of France in a press release over the weekend. .

“During the Covid-19 crisis, our society made heavy sacrifices to save lives, especially the most fragile, even going so far as to over-isolate the sick or the elderly to preserve their physical health. How is it possible, only a few months after this great national mobilization, that society no longer sees any other response to the fragility of life than active assistance in death and suicide?

The bishops were reacting to President Macron’s launch of a citizens’ convention on euthanasia, in line with promises made before his re-election in April. This decision should lead to legislation in 2023.

The bishops said “genuine democratic discernment” required listening “seriously and calmly” to a range of opinions, including those of “different religious traditions”.

The Protestant Federation of France indicated that it had published reflections on euthanasia in 2021, and that it would actively participate with other religious communities in the Citizens’ Convention.

“For Christians, dignity is intrinsic to everyone created in the image of God: it is neither gained nor lost,” the Federation statement said. “Given the insufficiency of resources currently allocated to palliative care, we share the concern that this proposed legislative change is mainly motivated by economic or ideological considerations.”

Assisted dying legislation was voted down in 2021; French doctors can currently keep terminally ill patients sedated under a 2016 law, without hastening their death.

In a report published in mid-September, however, the Ethics Council reversed previous conclusions and said that “active assistance in dying” could now be authorized “under strict conditions”, despite strong opposition from religious leaders. and parliamentarians opposed to euthanasia.

If passed, the proposed law, which has majority support in opinion polls, will make the country the sixth country in Europe to allow euthanasia and medical assistance in dying after the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland and Spain. Parallel laws are being considered in several others, including Germany and Portugal.

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