French government is introducing a deceptive euthanasia bill, archbishop says

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French President Emmanuel Macron and Archbishop Éric de Moulins-Beaufort of Reims, president of the French bishops' conference, are pictured in a combination photo. (OSV News photo/Ludovic Marin, pool via Reuters/Corinne Simon, KNA)

PARIS (OSV News) — The French bishops’ conference president rebuffed President Emmanuel Macron’s comments that a law that would allow euthanasia is a “law of fraternity.”

“It’s a deception,” Archbishop Éric de Moulins-Beaufort of Reims said of the proposal, as issues worrying French Catholics only pile up.

Macron wants to pass a law before summer that would open up the possibility of requesting “aid in dying” under “strict conditions.” On March 10, the French president unveiled the content of the bill in a lengthy interview, given simultaneously to the left-wing daily Libération and to the Catholic daily newspaper La Croix.

Macron made it clear that he did not wish to use the terms “assisted suicide” or “euthanasia,” but “assisted dying” instead, calling a law to allow it a “law of fraternity.”

Treating ‘death as a solution’

The next day, La Croix published a strong reaction from the president of the French bishops’ conference.

Archbishop de Moulins-Beaufort denounced the “rhetoric” of Macron’s remarks. “Calling a text that opens up both assisted suicide and euthanasia a ‘law of fraternity’ is a deception,” he emphasized. “I believe in the normative nature of the law,” he said.

“Such a law, whatever we want, will (move) our entire healthcare system towards death as a solution. … At the heart of our healthcare system, there would now be this option, so much easier and less costly than everything else,” the archbishop said.

The president of the French bishops’ conference also strongly deplored the fact that palliative care became “secondary” in Macron’s bill.

“What is announced does not lead our country towards more life, but towards death as a solution to life,” he said.

The project is being carried out at the expense of the development of palliative care, he pointed out. “French people would not view the end of life in the same way if palliative care were a reality for everyone everywhere, Archbishop de Moulins-Beaufort said.

Palliative care is under-resourced

According to a report published in July 2023 by the Cour des Comptes, France’s public finance auditing body, the supply of palliative care, to help preserve the quality of life of patients suffering from a serious illness, is still far from sufficient to cover needs in France. Only 48% of the palliative care beds needed are being provided.

On March 11, Macron’s announcement also prompted a reaction from the French Society for Support and Palliative Care, known by its French initials as SFAP, which represents the main French players in the palliative care movement.

In a statement published on behalf of some 15 unions and associations of doctors and caregivers, they dubbed the president’s remarks as proof of “blindness” that created “confusion,” underlining the “brutality” of the bill. “Dying with dignity is a very legitimate request, but it is precisely the mission of palliative care, which is notoriously under-resourced,” it said.

On the same day, Bishop Matthieu Rougé of Nanterre, member of the permanent council of the bishops’ conference, said in an interview with radio station France Inter that “we cannot speak of fraternity when we respond to suffering with death.”

In April the bill will be presented to the Council of Ministers, the collegial formation that brings together all ministers each week, chaired by the president of the republic, before being submitted to the National Assembly in May.

The French president’s announcement on his plans for legalizing euthanasia come only days after abortion was enshrined in the French Constitution.

Caroline de Sury

Caroline de Sury writes for OSV News from Paris.