French Lawmakers Approve Terminal Sedation, Not Euthanasia

France’s Parliament has approved a bill that will let doctors keep terminally ill patients sedated until death comes but stops short of legalizing euthanasia or assisted suicide. After years of tense debate over the issue and a long journey through Parliament, the bill was passed by the country’s lower house and Senate.

The new law will allow patients to request deep, continuous sedation altering consciousness until death” but only when their condition is likely to lead to a quick death. Doctors will be allowed to stop life-sustaining treatments, including artificial hydration and nutrition. Sedation and painkillers will be allowed. The bill will also apply to patients who are unable to express their will, following a process that includes consultation with family members.

The methods can involve medicating patients until they die naturally of their illness or until they starve. Some doctors, however, say it may be more human to euthanize.

The new bill will also force doctors to follow end-of-life instructions regarding terminal sedation and stopping treatments, whether they are expressed by the persons themselves or written in advance. People can also designate a “trustworthy person” whose opinion would be predominant in case of patients that are no longer able to express their will. The bill specifies that patients can choose to be sedated at home or in the hospital.