Ihe end of life is no picnic. The whole thing is that it does not become a part of displeasure. The citizens’ convention on the end of life strives to find the different paths that can lead to a social consensus while respecting the various sensitivities.
The matter is not easy in a society where ultimate aging can arouse fears and where existential disarray can lead each of us to wish to slip away from this world. There is certainly a consensus, at least relative, beyond particular spiritual, philosophical or religious appreciations, which can make it possible to draw a line of demarcation between what is permitted and what is not permitted.
The first principle that guides reflection on the end of life is the refusal of the reification of the human body. What emerges is the prohibition of therapeutic relentlessness, respect for the unique and particular character of each individual, the desire to relieve the human person of his suffering. From this principle derives the possibility of resorting to deep and continuous sedation, maintained until death.
The other two fundamental principles are otherness and free will. The question of the end of life cannot be apprehended without reference to informed consent and the social relationship. The reservations expressed against a right to death stem from these two principles which set the framework for any human society.
The expression of free choice
Granting a right to suicide or assisted suicide rests, in fact, on the postulate of flawless discernment in the expression of free choice. Consequently, intervening to hinder a suicide attempt would amount to breaking the will of others. Article 223-6 of the penal code, which punishes with five years’ imprisonment the absence of assistance to a person in danger, would therefore be set aside. The architecture of human relations would be profoundly affected.
It remains that, in any human society, there are situations which escape the principles governing a society. In these very specific situations, the company may find it useful to let it happen. This is the very meaning of the “euthanasia exception”, which authorizes the judge not to prosecute. Recourse to the exception of euthanasia is intended to remain exceptional, under penalty of perverting the very meaning of the legal framework of the end of life.
Reflection on the end of life cannot be emancipated from other public policies, in particular those in favor of old age. The worst suffering is loneliness and lack of care. Ehpad are often the place of such suffering, not to mention the risk of abuse. A society in which the hope of death invades men and women in their ultimate old age, lacking social consideration, empathy and the pleasure of living, lacks its dignity. Human dignity is the promise of a happy end of life.
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