“The alternative is between two deaths, one chosen in peace; the other, undergone, in torture”

2023-06-22 13:00:06

First, let’s use the right words: what, in public debate, is called the “end of life” is death. And it is also the disease. You have to try to stare at them, one and the other, fixedly.

Dying of illness is not going out like a candle. It’s having pain, it’s losing control of your organs, it’s often, very often, a debacle of asphyxia and diarrhea. In the affections which reach the brain, for which the imagination of misfortune is without limit, this final collapse is preceded by a loss of memory, of lucidity, of language. Long before their death, the sick are dependent, that is to say they are in the hands of others, even for the most trivial gestures of life.

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There again, the vocabulary is important: these unfortunate people may not have lost any of their dignity, but they have lost all of their freedom. But they have the right to be free until their last hour and to choose their death. Many countries, which do not appear to be less civilized than ours, have recognized this human right: the latest is Portugal, whose Parliament adopted, on 12 May 2023, a law authorizing euthanasia.

France is still waiting. She behaves as if she were afraid; the freest of minds seem intimidated by arguments which are, ex hypothesi, respectable, but which are also contestable, in the sense that they are worthy of being contested. These arguments can be reduced to four in number. We will try here to express them without diminishing them and to respond to them without betraying them.

We have the right to kill ourselves

First of all, “No one owns his life, it is not up to man to decide the end of his days”. This question has been settled since the Revolution. Since September 25, 1791, suicide in France is no longer an offence. We have the right to kill ourselves. And if a being is weakened and hampered to the point of no longer being able to use this right, are they going to be told that it is up to them to choke on a plastic bag or to throw themselves through the window of his hospital room? Or are we going to allow a professional, who is authorized to do so and who consents to it, to perform, at the chosen moment, according to the instructions of the patient or the trusted third party he has designated, the final gesture ? Let everyone ask themselves, in conscience, which of these two solutions is the more honorable.

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Secondly, “every hour, every minute of life is worth living”. When we have seen someone crying, for weeks, from physical pain and moral distress, going from the state of a subject to the state of an object, becoming paralyzed, aphasic, incapable even of recognizing his own, we know that there comes a time when life is no longer worth living. We know it. Although, of course, one cannot deny anyone the right to suffer if they want and for as long as they want.

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