France's President Emmanuel Macron attends the Czech-French nuclear forum in Prague, Czech Republic, March 5, 2024.
France's President Emmanuel Macron attends the Czech-French nuclear forum in Prague, Czech Republic, March 5, 2024. REUTERS/Eva Korinkova

Macron endorses "help to die" bill in France, amid church concerns

Macron said for the first time that he backed new end-of-life legislation that would allow what he called "help to die" and wanted his government to put forward a draft bill to parliament in May.

By Elizabeth Pineau and John Irish

PARIS (Reuters) - President Emmanuel Macron said on Sunday for the first time that he backed new end-of-life legislation that would allow what he called "help to die" and wanted his government to put forward a draft bill to parliament in May.

France's neighbours Switzerland, Belgium and the Netherlands have adopted laws that allow medically assisted dying in some cases. But France has resisted that step, in part under pressure from the Catholic Church.

The Claeys-Leonetti law on the end of life, adopted in 2016, authorizes deep sedation but only for people whose prognosis is threatened in the short-term.

In an interview with Liberation newspaper, Macon said he did not want to call the new legislation euthanasia or assisted suicide, but rather "help to die".

"It does not, strictly speaking, create a new right nor a freedom, but it traces a path which did not exist until now and which opens the possibility of requesting assistance in dying under certain strict conditions," he said.

Macron said those conditions would need to be met and a medical team would assess and ensure the criteria for the decision was correct.

It would concern only adults capable of making the decision and whose life prognosis is threatened in the medium-term such as final-stage cancer, he said.

Family members would also be able to appeal the decision, Macron said.

The bill builds on the work of a group of 184 randomly appointed French citizens who debated the issue.

They concluded their work last year with 76% of them saying they favoured allowing some form of assistance to die, for those who want it.

The decision to push ahead with the end of life legislation comes after the right to abortion was enshrined into the French constitution, following an overwhelming vote by lawmakers earlier this month.

Macron has sought to bolster his image as a social reformer just three months before June's European parliamentary elections. His party is more than 10 points behind the far-right Rassemblement National in polls.

(Reporting by John Irish; editing by Giles Elgood)

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