End of life: the Council of Christian Churches in France recalls its convictions


A few days before the start of the citizens' convention on the end of life, the Council of Christian Churches in France (Conference of Bishops, Protestant Federation of France and the Assembly of Orthodox Bishops of France) wished to recall its convictions. He also writes, supporting the reservations expressed by certain members of the National Ethics Advisory Committee on this subject. 

Friday, December 9 will begin the citizens' convention on the end of life. 150 French people drawn by lot will look into the question of a possible modification of the Clayes-Leonnetti law.

It is on the basis of their conclusions that the government will decide whether or not to change this law, possibly by legalizing “active assistance in dying” which the Ethics Committee recently deemed possible under very strict conditions. President Emmanuel Macron, who plans to make the end of life the major societal reform of his second five-year term, revived the subject at the end of the summer but is careful not to defend a clear-cut position.

On the occasion of the opening of this debate, the Council of Christian Churches in France (CECEF) published, Monday, December 5, a joint declaration. The French representatives of the Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox faiths have deemed it necessary to recall their convictions in this context.

“Dying is part of the human condition”, they recall firstly, stressing that “the dignity of a human society consists in accompanying life until death and not in facilitating death”. They insist on the attention that must be paid to “the person himself in his dignity, his unique and inestimable value”. "It is therefore a question of taking care of it in an attitude of compassion made up of listening and benevolence", they add.

"The human being is a relational being", they write then. “Individual freedom cannot be confused with individualism” add the presidents of the Conference of Bishops of France, of the Protestant Federation of France and of the Assembly of Orthodox Bishops of France. This second point highlights in particular the notion of solidarity and interdependence between human beings within society.

“No one is the exclusive owner of his life; his decisions also matter to others. »

Finally, their third conviction is that access “to palliative care in France is not equal throughout the territory”. An insufficiency which contributes, according to them, "to the fear of suffering when palliative care could transform it".

For all these reasons, the CECEF claims to support “the reservations expressed” by the National Consultative Ethics Committee for Life and Health Sciences (CCNE).

Indeed, when the Ethics Committee's opinion on this issue was published last September, eight of its members, without being hostile in principle to active assistance in dying, wrote " a stockpile " which appears at the end of the notice.

The eight signatories of this reservation consider that the evolution of the law is unthinkable as long as certain prerequisites recommended by the CCNE are not fulfilled. This includes providing better palliative care services. “To take this legislative step without these prior efforts would represent a risk of renunciation that we do not wish to take”, they write.

"Precisely because we share the observation that 'one dies badly in France', it seems to us ethically essential that everything be implemented as a priority to remedy the difficulties of the health system, to promote a medical culture appropriate to the particular challenges of end of life, and to question society on its relationship to old age and death. The establishment of active assistance in dying, for a few exceptional cases, cannot significantly improve on its own the conditions of the end of life in France. In the current context of unprecedented crisis in the health system, it could on the contrary contribute to degrading them, especially if it were the occasion to ignore the prerequisites that we identify as priorities. »

A point of view shared by the three co-presidents of CECEF, Bishop Éric de Moulins-Beaufort, Pastor Christian Krieger and Metropolitan Dimitrios.

Camille Westphal Perrier

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