The deputies approved in committee, Friday May 17, the bill opening for the first time in France “assisted dying” for certain patients, after having modified during the debates one of the eligibility criteria, which raises fears some a disruption of the balance of the law.

The criterion according to which patients must have their “vital prognosis engaged in the short or medium term” to access assistance in dying has been replaced by the notion of illness “in advanced or terminal phase”, against the advice of the government but with the approval of the general rapporteur Olivier Falorni, member of the MoDem group.

The president of the commission, Agnès Firmin-Le Bodo (Horizons, also a member of the presidential camp), voted against this modification. “Removing the short and medium term, very clearly, we are no longer in the same law at all. We are in a law which can allow people whose vital prognosis would be compromised in the long term, who may have refractory physical suffering, to ask to die. This is not the balance of the law that was desired and that was presented,” she warned.

A section on palliative care

The Minister of Health, Catherine Vautrin, also spoke out against this rewriting, arguing that it would have the consequence, contrary to the intentions of its supporters, of restricting the field of eligible people.

The text, which is due to arrive on May 27 in the Hemicycle, plans to establish the possibility for certain patients to ask a doctor to be helped to commit suicide, via a lethal substance that they would administer themselves or that a third party could administer to them if they cannot do so.

In addition to being affected by a “serious and incurable illness in an advanced or terminal phase”, patients must, to be eligible, be of legal age, capable of expressing their wishes in a free and informed manner, and present suffering that is refractory to the treatments or unbearable. The deputies ruled out the opening of the right to die for minors, as well as the possibility for patients who could not express their wish to be euthanized on the basis of their advance directives.

The government text also includes a section on palliative care. The deputies managed to have an amendment adopted against the government’s advice in favor of an “enforceable right” to benefit from this care, while one in two people does not have access to it today.