France parliament approves bill allowing sedation for terminally ill patients

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French lawmakers on Wednesday approved [press release, in French] a bill that will allow physicians to keep terminally ill patients sedated until death, opting not to extend the bill to cover physician-assisted suicide. Under the new law, patients will be able to request [AP report] "deep, continuous sedation altering consciousness until death," though the request may only be granted when the patient's condition is life-threatening in the short term. The bill will also allow for a consultation process with family members of a patient to reach the same relief of pain when a patient is unable to express his or her own will. Parliament [official website, in French] debated [AP report] the proposed law in March, with Prime Minister Manuel Valls praising it as "a reform that proclaims the right to die peacefully, in dignity and without suffering," to the country's lower house of Parliament.

The right to die [JURIST news archive] is a contentious issue worldwide. Last month the Court of Appeals of Quebec overturned [JURIST report] a lower court injunction and ruled that Quebec's physician-assisted death law is not in conflict with any elements of the Quebec Criminal Code. In November German lawmakers approved a bill [JURIST report] allowing assisted suicide for "altruistic motives" but banning the practice in cases where it is being conducted on a "business" basis. The month before California Governor Jerry Brown signed legislation [JURIST report] that provides terminally ill patients the right to die. In May a Dutch court cleared [JURIST report] a man of all criminal charges for assisting his 99-year-old mother in committing suicide. In April a South African judge ruled [JURIST report] that a terminally ill man had a right to assisted suicide with no legal or professional consequences for the participating doctor.