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Opinion n°121 on the end of life: the CCNE or the art of doubletalk

Published on 08/27/2013 in Press releases

Tuesday 2 July 2013
PRESS RELEASE

The CCNE (National Consultative Ethics Committee) returns its report on the end of life. No to euthanasia and assisted suicide, it says with its hand on its heart, singing the praises of an existing law and shifting the responsibility back to a citizens’ debate. However, the ambiguous nuances and the lexical field rich in “leaving someone to die” and “causing someone to die” are more than ever the hallmark of the Committee’s doubletalk. This is true to the point that some readers see in it a strict attachment to the so-called cornerstone of the Léonetti law, while others see progress. The French President will doubtlessly be very relaxed in referring to opinion n°121 and calling for a draft law before the end of the year. The CCNE, incapable of laying down ethical limits, once again drowns the subject in semantics and opens the floodgates to partisan interpretations.

The CCNE receives widespread acclaim after submitting its opinion on the end of life. The opponents of euthanasia, who feared a go-ahead from the Committee, are relieved, while those who demanded it do not seem especially disappointed, aware that the barriers to a change of law are, one by one, falling to the prevailing expectancy.

The CCNE delivers a message that looks clear from the outside...Two major directions emerge initially: euthanasia and assisted suicide are rejected and the Léonetti law given a new lease of life.

  • … based on big principles, without risking a definition of them other than by saying what they are not …
    Human dignity, for instance, is presented as a fundamental principle which, strangely, could be defined both by respect for life until its end and as the freedom to choose to die. The two definitions are compatible for the CCNE since they go against their common opposite, indignity.
  • … referring to the existence of exceptions and technical parameters undermining these phantom principles …
    The CCNE busies itself analysing individual cases and special procedures. The exceptions become the rule when the real issue at stake is expressing the common good.
  • … apparently aligning itself with current legislation, which it doesn’t balk at interpreting …
    More than once, the CCNE affirms in its report the existence of a right to deep sedation, derived from the Léonetti law. This is actually a fundamental downslide and not a faithful interpretation of the applicable legislation. Jean Léonetti himself tried in vain to get this point adopted by Parliament in April.
  • … to the extent where hypocrisy prevails. The CCNE does not give the explicit go-ahead to euthanasia, but it does introduce a right to deep sedation, which it derives from an extensive interpretation of the current law, which, in fact, does not need to be amended. Opinion n°121 is a follow-on to the Sicard report and the report from the College of Physicians, which use wordplay and outline a clear-cut trend: no to euthanasia, too hot a topic today, yes to deep sedation, which leads to the same effect.

The Jérôme Lejeune Foundation deplores the doubletalk so familiar to the Ethics Committee and which lends itself to as many interpretations as there are readers. In April, it had already returned the same kind of report, apparently concerned about the eugenistic excesses of the new prenatal screening tests while rolling out the red carpet to the industrialists to apply this technique to Down syndrome. Jean-Marie le Méné, chairman of the Jérôme Lejeune Foundation states: “Far from the ethical limits necessary to society, the CCNE is faithful to its practice of supervising excesses. Its job is always to accommodate ethic transgression at the pace of its acceptability by the opinion. The CCNE is a false friend to healthcare professionals and users, but a real accomplice of the powers that be, as indicated by its recruitment methods: it is a State-run ethics

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