Legalize Euthanasia? Publication date : October 28, 2010
A philosopher and former minister in the French government, Luc Ferry is the author of, notably, Vaincre les peurs (2006). His works include Combattre l’illettrisme (2009), Face à la crise (2009), Pour un service civique (2008), Lettre à tous ceux qui aiment l’école (2003) and Qu’est-ce que l’homme? (2000).
Axel Kahn is a physician geneticist and the author of many successful essays. He was formerly a member of the French National Consultative Ethics Committee.
In France, there is a growing demand to legalise medically assisted suicide for patients suffering from severe irreversible handicaps or from chronic disabling pain — a step that has already been taken in many other countries. The issue is regularly debated in the media, backed by reports of desperate appeals on the part of patients, their families and medical staff and carers, who feel abandoned in the face of a tragic dilemma: whether to help the patient die and break the law or to watch the patient suffer a thousand deaths.
What path should be taken, between maintaining the status quo for fear that one step toward “active” euthanasia, even under strict regulations, will lead to uncontrollable excesses and the radical Swiss solution, which allows private companies to advertise their services for “assisted suicide”?
• Based on a comparison of euthanasia legislation in several countries and an analysis of specific cases revealing the paradoxes of contemporary individualistic values, Luc Ferry and Axel Kahn put into perspective the arguments in favour of and against changing the existing French laws. Although the authors do not reach the same conclusions, the arguments they develop, by outlining a series of converging problems, will help clarify this particularly difficult issue and thus chart the way forward to an appropriate answer.