They condemn euthanasia and also deplore the difficulty in accessing palliative care in France, as well as the lack of training offered to healthcare workers in this area.

Past March, 118 bishops in France signed a statement entitled, “End of life: Yes to the urgency of fraternity!”

In the document, the French bishops proposed six ethical reasons for opposing the legalization of euthanasia and assisted suicide, which are at the core of the bill, and which in turn is the subject of a public debate called the National Consultation on Bioethics; the discussion has been fostered by French President, Emmanuel Macron, and has galvanized the entire country (see HERE).

The Bishops state in the aforementioned document that if the bill is approved, it will deeply upset French society, and they remind the citizens and the parliamentarians who must enact it that this law does not support a fraternal society where we take individual and collective care of each other.

They repeat that palliative care in France is underdeveloped, and that the options to alleviate suffering in all its forms are not sufficiently well known by people, so this ignorance must be fought.

In turn, they also show their compassion towards their brothers and sisters who are at the end of their lives, and encourage healthcare providers to offer them the possibility that that end is the best quality possible.

They also deplore the difficulty in accessing palliative care in France, as well as the lack of training offered to healthcare workers in this area, which could contribute to perpetuating patient suffering in their final days. They also say that this is the real reason why many patients request assisted suicide and euthanasia.

They repeat that palliative care in France is underdeveloped, and that the options to alleviate suffering in all its forms are not sufficiently well known by people, so this ignorance must be fought.

Six main ethical reasons to oppose the legalization of euthanasia

Whatever our convictions, the end of life is a time we all will live and a concern we share. We must all be able to think calmly, avoiding all kinds of pressure.

The French bishops continue, saying that they want to express their full compassion for their brothers and sisters at the “end of life”, as the Church has always done.

Furthermore, they restate their opposition to the bill on euthanasia and assisted suicide, based on the following ethical reasons:

  1. The latest law on end-of-life patient care and palliative care, which was only recently approved, had unquestionable international repercussions, facilitating responsible management of healthcare workers and training of specialized caregivers to ensure better end-of-life patient care. However, its application is still a work in progress, so proper implementation is needed. It is appropriate, therefore, to consider each individual on a case-by-case basis, to support each vulnerable person as best as possible, which requires time, discretion and sensitivity. Changing this law, which has been very effective, would show a lack of respect, not only for the legislative work already done, but also for the patient and progressive endeavors of the caregivers.
  2. We wonder, how could the State, without contradicting itself, promote, even monitor, assisted suicide or euthanasia while developing proposals to reduce the suicide rate in French society? It would be to inscribe in the heart of our society the violation of the civilizing imperative: “You shall not kill”. “The message sent would be dramatic for all, especially for very frail people, often torn by this question: Am I not a burden for my family and for society? Whatever the legal niceties pursued to stifle the problems of conscience, the fratricidal gesture would stand in our collective conscience as a repressed and unanswered question: what did you do to your brother?”
  3. If the State entrusted the execution of these requests for assisted suicide or euthanasia to medicine, healthcare providers would be led, unwittingly, to believe that a life may no longer be worth living, which would be contrary to the Code of Medical Ethics; it is, therefore, urgent to ensure a practice of medicine based on trust.
  4. Even if a conscientious objection clause would protect healthcare providers, what about vulnerable people? Where would be the coherence in the medical obligation if, in some places, caregivers were quick to accede to the patients’ wishes for death, while in others, they tried to convince them of the value of life, even in their difficult circumstances?

The vulnerability of people – young and old – in situations of dependency and end-of-life is not resolved with death, but with support and solidarity, which requires more attentive companionship, and not abandonment to the silence of death.

  1. The proponents of assisted suicide and euthanasia invoke “the sovereign choice of the patient, his desire to control his fate”. They claim that “the exercise of this right takes nothing away from anyone.” What, though, is a freedom which, in the name of an illusory sovereign autonomy, would imprison the vulnerable person in the solitude of his decision? Experience shows that freedom is always a relationship through which a dialogue is established, so that the care is beneficial. Our personal choices, whether we like it or not, have a collective dimension. The wounds of the individual body are the wounds of the social body. If some people make the desperate decision to commit suicide, this choice should not be imposed upon the social life through legal cooperation with the suicidal act.
  2. Faced with the dilemmas and uncertainties of our society, we offer — as Jürgen Habermas recommends — the story of the “good Samaritan”, who takes care of the “half dead man”, takes him to a hospital “inn” and practices solidarity by taking care of the “expense” resulting from his “care”. In the light of this story, we call upon our fellow citizens and parliamentarians to an awakening of consciousness, so that an ever more fraternal society can be formed in France, where we take care of each other, individually and collectively. This fraternity inspired the vision of our solidarity healthcare system at the end of the Second World War. What will we do with this vision? Fraternity rests on a political decision, and we urgently appeal for it by rejecting this law (see document HERE).

The bishops of France give the humanitarian and service vision that is often lacking in political debates and offer a solution to the shortcomings suffered by the terminally ill in France. It also is a valuable contribution to the bioethical debate in France by providing concrete solutions and underlining the transcendence of the end of life for the patient and the medical staff.


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