Faced with the Citizens’ Convention responsible for deliberating on the need for a legal framework more suited to concrete end-of-life situations, we experience, not automatic disapproval, but astonishment. The mode of consultation chosen by the government, the words used to circumvent the problem of a chosen and assisted death, everything seems to minimize the civilizational depth of the question.
How do we come to expect 185 citizens to respond, in “9 weekends”, to a question of this order? Since when does the majority opinion of a group of people drawn by lot, regardless of the individual quality of the people who compose it and who is neither more nor less similar to ours, justify changing the law?
A company can check in this way if a new product will sell, if the concept appeals. The communication agency will indeed convene a panel in the likeness of its clientele to refine the marketing strategy. How did we come to subvert the collective decision-making mechanisms in a representative democracy to such an extent? To think that a group of people who illustrate the diversity of French society could represent the will of the nation to the legislator?
death by humanity
However, the subject entrusted to this mirror panel is of unparalleled seriousness. Will we have the right in France to cause, out of humanity, the death of another human being? Should this killing by humanity be possible? Can it be legit? When is it needed? The questions besiege us. Apart from a situation of war or self-defense, who would be, by law, exempt from obeying the first principle: “Thou shalt not kill”?
The National Consultative Ethics Committee issued its opinion last September, saying “there is a way for an ethical application of active assistance in dying, under certain strict conditions with which it appears unacceptable to compromise”. The Committee’s formulation is excellent because it is paradoxical. There is indeed a way; it is narrow.
An act prohibited in principle
The decision to help someone die can only arise from the choice to actually perform an act prohibited in principle, because it is inspired by a higher motive of humanity for which we will be able to answer with our heads held high. It is on this condition that the gesture is human and that the decision that precedes it is ethical. Because killing will remain prohibited in principle.
If there are, as there always have been, concrete situations where this last aid is necessary; where care is unreasonable; the concrete decision to derogate from the principle is the subject of a matter of conscience, assumed by the discernment of doctors, the loyalty of a brother in arms, the compassion of a companion. What we are looking for here is not to make active assistance in dying ethical but to make it legal, to make the community assume, in an abstract and general way, the difficult responsibility.
Detours of language
Faced with concrete situations, why so many detours of language? The end of life, like the end of the evening, the end of a reign? Assisted suicide, a contradiction in terms? Palliative care, to palliate what exactly? Another transitive verb that has lost its object. Active assistance in dying, as opposed to what? What would passive assistance in dying be? It is the legal word that is missing, perpetually replaced, so unacceptable is it.
It is possible that advances in medicine, the quality of care, make it too costly to wait for a death that exceeds its natural time. It is likely that we no longer manage to consent, in any way, to what escapes our particular choices. But if, for lack of means, economic or moral, we had to change our laws, the most dignified thing would be not to pervert their principles by covering the misery of our reasons with a mantle of ethics and humanity.
🟠📽️#FinDeVie : comment @The cross will deal with the debate, @jchapuis
“We are among those who wonder and even worry about the risks of abuse. But we are above all committed to helping everyone, whatever their convictions, to enter into the complexity of the subject.” pic.twitter.com/vRLTTW8R0u
— The Cross (@LaCroix) December 8, 2022