The 185 citizens of the Convention on the end of life demanded controversy. They were served with the round table organized, Saturday, January 7, between Claire Fourcade, from the French Society for Support and Palliative Care (Sfap) and Jonathan Denis, from the Association for the Right to Die with Dignity (ADMD ). It’s hard to imagine more opposing personalities than these two on the theme of the “right to die”, according to the formula appearing on the program.
The first, 55 years old, including twenty-five as a palliative care doctor in Narbonne (Aude) and president of Sfap since September 2020, advocates support until the end and has opposed for years any legalization of a actively assisting in dying. The second, 39, a former journalist, elected president of the ADMD in October 2021, has long campaigned for a supervised decriminalization of euthanasia and assisted suicide in the name of freedom of choice. Two battles that are rooted, for each, in a strong personal experience.
In the privacy of the sick caregiver relationship
It is a little after 11 a.m. when Nicolas Prissette, the journalist moderator appointed by the Economic, Social and Environmental Council (Cese) which organizes the Convention, invites Claire Fourcade to explain herself to the audience gathered in the hemicycle of the palace from Jena. “The rest of us, doctors, are involved with patients, so, inevitably, it changes the look,” she begins, visibly stressed, before reading a sort of open letter to a dying person.
Of his words which enter with modesty into the intimate relationship between carer and patient, we will retain those of the end which seal the unspoken oath between the two: “I can accept that you die because that is life. I can’t abandon you. To continue to live, to love, to care for, I cannot be the one who will make you die, ”she concludes to applause.
Following him, Jonathan Denis will also be able to find strong words to tell the story of his father suffering from generalized cancer in 2008 and whom a doctor agrees to accompany in death, according to his will, by making a gesture illegal. “Since then, I have promised myself to fight with all my strength, with all my soul so that everyone can have the right to turn off the light when they wish,” he says, triggering a new round of applause. .
Arguments and counter-arguments
But the audience clearly understood that the register of emotion could not be the only one to approach such a complex subject. The ten minutes of presentation having passed, comes the time for more down-to-earth questions which are already flying.
“If we were to legalize active assistance in dying, what form do you think it would take? asks a citizen. “The media have reported abuses in the Netherlands. What do you think ? asks a citizen. “If we legalize euthanasia, won’t the elderly or the sick choose to die to relieve the families? », Worries another. “Should active assistance in dying apply to mental disorders? asks one. “And also to minors? “adds another. “Is it reasonable to change the law when the current one is not applied and the medical world is on the verge of collapse? “, is alarmed a last.
For more than an hour, Claire Fourcade and Jonathan Denis will develop arguments and counter-arguments, each in their usual register. That of the defense of a collective solidarity which protects the most fragile and the most vulnerable for the president of the Sfap. That of the recognition of the autonomy of the person and the respect of his choices for the president of the ADMD.
Storm under a skull
The only point of agreement, but of importance: the need to develop palliative care. “We must make them accessible everywhere and for everyone as the law has provided for thirty years”, insists Claire Fourcade. “Yes, we need a great equivalent law of “whatever the cost” for palliative care”, opines Jonathan Denis.
At the exit, difficult to say who was the most convincing. While most of the participants have already joined the cafeteria for lunch, two groups still huddle around the guests to ask the question that torments them, to demand the precision that they lack.
For Clarisse, a bank retiree from Bordeaux, it’s a storm under her head: “I’m a practicing Catholic so, of course, I understand that we want to accompany us to the end out of humanity. But I also keep the image of my mother suffering from Alzheimer’s, who died in decay. If that happened to me, I wouldn’t want my kids to see that. I admit, I’m a bit lost. »