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Opinion 121 - Press Release

01/07/13

The President of the Republic referred questions concerning the end of life to the National Consultative Ethics Committee for Health and Life Sciences (CCNE). In its Opinion N°121, “The End of Life, Personal Autonomy, the Will to Die”, the Committee formulates several recommendations to which all of its members unanimously agreed, in particular:

- the need to put an end to all situations of indignity which, still all too often, are the circumstances of end of life;

- the need to make the right to palliative care accessible to everyone — a right which legislators recognised fourteen years ago — and to develop access to palliative care at home;

- respect for advance directives; when they are drawn up in the presence of an attendant physician and in circumstances when the existence of a serious condition has been made known, advance directives should be binding upon health care providers, save for exceptions duly accounted for in writing;

- respect for the right of those nearing the end of their lives, if they so request, to deep sedation until their death, once treatment and possibly nutrition and hydration are withdrawn at the patient’s request.

As regards the right of a person at the end of life to access, at his or her request, medical action for the purpose of accelerating death and/or the right to assisted suicide, the Committee did not arrive at unanimously shared thoughts and proposals. A majority of members recommend that assisted suicide and/or euthanasia should not be made legal.

CCNE considers that end of life is a subject requiring further reflection which should be continued in the form of public debate.

Since the President of the Republic mentioned in the referral the introduction of draft legislation on these matters in the near future, this public debate should include the convening of Estates General of “conferences of citizens chosen to represent the diversity of society,” as set out in the law on bioethics.

CCNE will be continuing to reflect on matters concerning the end of life and will report after the public debate which it is proposing.

June 30th 2013

Jean Claude Ameisen