The Citizens’ Assembly on assisted dying in France has voted overwhelmingly in favour of legalising assisted dying. 125 citizens (75%) out of 167 voted in favour, 32 against, and 10 abstained. There are three more sessions of the Assembly before it submits its final detailed proposals to the French Government on 19 March.
French President Emmanuel Macron has said he hopes to introduce a new legal framework on assisted dying by the end of 2023. He has not yet ruled out a parliamentary vote or even a possible referendum on the Citizens’ Assembly’s proposals.
Run by the Economic, Social and Environmental Council (CESE), the ‘Convention Citoyenne’ is made up of 185 French citizens who are representative of the general population. Over the course of nine sessions, the participants listen to speakers, discuss research, debate, and vote on a series of questions about end-of-life choices. (Not all participants vote on every question.)
- 109 voted in support of assisted dying administered by a doctor, 50 against.
- 68 voted in favour of legalising assisted dying for people suffering from incurable, intolerable illnesses but without necessarily a terminal diagnosis, 30 voted for terminal only, and 53 abstained.
- 83% agreed that the current end-of-life legal framework in France is not adequate.
The Citizens’ Assembly also discussed how to improve other aspects of France’s current end-of-life legislation, including palliative care, and patient choice and autonomy.
In 2021, a Citizens’ Jury on the island of Jersey overwhelmingly supported the introduction of assisted dying legislation, with 78% voting in favour. This led to Jersey’s States Assembly approving assisted dying ‘in principle’ and official legislation is expected to be introduced in 2023.
In December 2022, the UK House of Commons’ Health and Social Care Committee launched an inquiry into assisted dying. Humanists UK submitted written evidence to the Committee and hopes to be called to give oral evidence.
Humanists UK Assisted Dying Campaigner Nathan Stilwell said:
‘A member of the French Citizens’ Assembly recently told reporters that he had never seen a debate as well-constructed, as interesting, and as devoid of hostility and antagonism as the Citizens’ Assembly on assisted dying. It’s refreshing to see politics on contentious issues conducted so positively and this should be a lesson for us all.
‘People deserve the right to make choices about the end of their lives and there is no good reason to force anyone to live in pain, misery, and indignity after they have made a choice to end their suffering. We hope the current inquiry into assisted dying can learn from the democratic process in France.’
For further comment or information, media should contact Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 020 7324 3072 or 07534 248 596.
Read more about our campaign to legalise assisted dying in the UK.
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