French elected officials at the HUG to learn about assisted suicide in Switzerland

A delegation of French elected officials led by the Minister Delegate for Health Agnès Firmin Le Bodo and by government spokesperson Olivier Véran visited the University Hospitals of Geneva on Friday. They discussed the practice of assisted suicide.

This visit is part of the broad national debate on the end of life launched by French President Emmanuel Macron last December. A Citizens’ Convention on the end of life has been set up to look into this theme.

“We came to learn regarding the different practices of assisted dying,” said Olivier Véran at the start of the exchange. The elected officials discussed in particular with Mauro Poggia, President of the Geneva State Council, Bertrand Levrat, Director General of the HUG and with Professor Arnaud Perrier, Medical Director.

A visit has already taken place in Belgium with the same objective. The elected officials should also go to Italy and Spain. “It also allows parliamentarians who will have to decide on these issues to form a conviction and to look concretely on the spot, among people who have rocked before us in an evolution of the law, what might be interesting to do or not in our country,” said the government spokesman.

The French delegation, made up of several deputies and senators and health professionals, asked many questions to the Geneva health authorities as well as to the nursing staff. In particular, they questioned the representatives of the HUG on the costs of assisted suicides, on advance directives, on the notion of capacity for discernment and on the training of caregivers.

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Different practices

In France, assisted suicide is currently prohibited. In Switzerland, the criminal code stipulates that assisted suicide is punishable if it is carried out for “a selfish motive”. Conversely, when the motive is altruistic, assisted suicide is not repressed. Directives from the Swiss Academy of Medical Sciences set a stricter framework and conditions.

“It’s a way of making the law which is very different from that which we know in France where we assume that everything is prohibited except what is authorized”, noted Mr. Véran. Asked at the end of the visit regarding the possibility of authorizing assisted suicide in France, he specified that at this stage “everything is on the table”.

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