Macron’s euthanasia law risks causing an “uncontrollable domino effect” on the weakest, say evangelicals

The National Evangelical Council of France describes the new draft law as an “attack on humanity” as it puts pressure on “socially fragile people who feel a kind of duty to leave life”.

Evangelical Focus , Joel Forster

PARIS · 09 MAY 2024 · 13:03 CET

Emmanuel Macron, president of France, greets with workers of the national healthcare system in 2023. / Photo: <a target="_blank" href="">Facebook Emmanuel Macron</a>.,
Emmanuel Macron, president of France, greets with workers of the national healthcare system in 2023. / Photo: Facebook Emmanuel Macron.

Two months ago, France caught the world’s attention as it enshrined abortion in the constitution. Now Macron wants to tackle another highly controversial bioethical issue: euthanasia.

Already in 2022, the president said he wanted to reopen the debate on the “right to die”, as he considered the 2016 law insufficient. The Protestant Committee for Human Dignity criticised these plans: “We are promised a law giving us all the right to die with dignity. This right already exists, more palliative care should be implemented”. Emmanuel Macron had already been described by conservative Christians as a “clearly transgressive concerning bioethics”.

The head of state now says the new ‘Bill on Support for the Sick and the End of Life’ sent to the parliament should be seen as a “fraternity bill”. Euthanasia or assisted dying would be available for adults with full control of their judgement who suffer incurable or life-threatening illnesses and whose pain cannot be relieved.

According to French newspaper Le Monde, “if medical professionals give their consent, a lethal substance would be prescribed for the patient, who can administer it themselves or with the help of a third party if they cannot physically do so”.

Half of the population supports legalising such end-of-life options, surveys say.


Evangelicals see a “logic of profitability” that puts pressure on the weak

But for the National Council of Evangelical Christians in France (CNEF), calling a new euthanasia bill “fraternal” is “surprising, to say the least”.

According to the organisation representing the majority of the 2,530 evangelical churches in the country, allowing to administer a lethal substance to someone is “an attack on humanity” that “would provoke an uncontrollable domino effect”.

A look at the reality in neighbouring countries like Belgium, where almost 3,000 people died by euthanasia in 2022 (an increase of 10% over the previous year), should ring an alarm.

Macron’s euthanasia law risks causing an “uncontrollable domino effect” on the weakest, say evangelicals

  Statement on the CNEF website.

“Initially strictly open to legally competent adults, the target has gradually been extended to vulnerable persons and minors”, says the CNEF as it analyses the current social debate. “The initial reason of terminal illness has now been extended to the subjective reason of mental suffering”.

What is most “concerning”, says the evangelical group, is that “in a society dominated by the logic of profitability, certain economic pressures are being exerted and are causing the most mentally or socially fragile people to feel a kind of duty to leave life, so as not to be a burden on society or their loved ones. The recent cynicism of mutual insurance companies in favour of active assistance in dying confirms this risk”.


Palliative care and conscience clauses for health workers

What is the alternative to legalise methods to die? “Listen to the vulnerability of those who are suffering”, says the CNEF. Today, “one in two French people who need it do not have access to palliative care, which relieves suffering and soothes patients in the vast majority of cases”.

The government has “not listened to carers, and that it is putting them in contradiction with their mission by asking them to give death or to help to do so”.  If the law is finally adopted, “a conscience clause for all healthcare workers” should be guaranteed, avoiding “the risk of further increasing the shortage of staff in a profession in which many Christians are committed”.

A Christian vision of life is that “God assigns to every man and woman, regardless of their faculties, age or health, an inalterable value, by the very fact of their belonging to created humanity”, the CNEF statement concludes.


A political trend in Western Europe

In Europe, assisted suicide is legal in Switzerland and more recently in Portugal. Euthanasia is allowed in Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain, and Luxembourg.

Several other countries, including Germany, are also debating new legalisation on end-of-life practices.

Macron’s euthanasia law risks causing an “uncontrollable domino effect” on the weakest, say evangelicals

Professor John Wyatt.

In this context, John Wyatt, a Christian doctor in the UK with expertise in bioethics, told Evangelical Focus he saw “many reasons” why making assisted dying or euthanasia legal is “unhelpful”, but “the most worrying is these subtle pressures on the elderly and disabled people”.

The author of several books said what concerned him about the debate in Europe is that putting an end on one’s life was “presented almost as a form of altruism. It is a way of addressing elderly people and saying, ‘maybe the most loving and caring thing you could do for your relatives, children, and loved ones is to allow yourself to be killed’. This seems such a corruption of the truth and of the Christian way of understanding life as a gift from God”.

But Wyatt also saw a positive side in the whole conversation in Europe. “It is helping people to think more about what it is to die well”. And Christians should be able to present reasons for hope and deep care of those suffering incurable illnesses, he added.

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