Speech about the #endoflife in #France at Euthanasia 2016 by Jean-Luc ROMERO

intervention de Jean-Luc Romero à Amsterdam sur la situation française sur la fin de vie et les actions ADMD, mai 2016.


(Version française consultable ici) 

 Dear friends,

I am Jean-Luc Romero-Michel, president of ADMD- France since two thousand and seven. ADMD has nearly sixty-eight thousands members and is represented in the whole of France - even overseas - thanks to its one hundred and twenty delegations. Right now, we have an average of ten thousand new members a year.
 
As an introduction, I would like to say that all the polls show that ninety percent of the French population is in favor of legalizing euthanasia and assisted suicide. Adding to this, ninety-eight percent of those, who are older than sixty-five are in favor of choice at the end-of-life.
 
So, you will tell me that we should be advancing and that France should soon have a law legalizing euthanasia and assisted suicide. Even more so, since François Hollande promised a law while he was running for president and his prime minister, Manuel Valls proposed a bill in two thousand and nine in the National Assembly to legalize the possibility of ending one's life in dignity.
 
All the conditions seemed to be there in order to act according to the French people's will. No political risk, since this has been plebiscited for the past twenty years. No legal risk since we have brilliant precursors in Europe : The Netherlands, Belgium and Luxemburg and last but not least, the right to assisted suicide in Switzerland .
 
So what is wrong ? 
 
We did not reckon with the panic caused among our MP’s, when society needs to be reformed. François Hollande reformed marriage by opening it to same-sex couples. But the size of demonstrations by homophobic and violent fanatics and religious extremists vaccinated him from going any further in reforming, not with standing the fact that this particular reform is plebiscited by the French  population.
 
He is sitting in his Elysee Palace and only listens to his advisors, one of whom is a Professor of Medicine (once again). It suddenly seemed urgent to him not to legalize euthanasia. He made another choice :  he had a so-called consensual law voted.
 
But can a deep reform of society be "consensual" ?  
 
Consensus is the smallest common denominator.  Sluggishness... General discontent… The pro-law are frustrated, the anti-law feel betrayed. 
 
I  will try to explain what happened since François Hollande was elected in two thousand and twelve (1), then, describe the present situation and the feelings of our members (2) and, finally, what we are doing to obtain the law of freedom which we have been demanding for the past thirty-six years (3).
 
1 ) What happened since François Hollande was elected in the spring of two thousand and twelve ?
 
Let us go back to November two thousand and eleven. 
 
In November two thousand and eleven, at the time of the fourth World day for the right to die in dignity, we launched a communication campaign :  insert in the press, video spots on the main TV channels,  posters and visual supports to all the MP'S. This campaign showed an intubated woman on a hospital bed with the slogan : "Ninety-four percent of the French approve of a pro-euthanasia law. There is still no law… "
 
This campaign had some success, especially because it showed that ninety-four percent of the French people want the law. Our opponents shot back at us and used all their cartridges before our actual campaign started...
Unfortunately for them, they had no idea that our actual campaign was only going to start a few months later, in March two thousand twelve.
 
In the meantime, we opened a blog at the very end of two thousand and eleven, which stated the position of each MP (of both chambers of Parliament) and of each candidate to the presidential and legislative elections with a copy of the answer given to our written question.
 
A great amount of work was needed to gather all this information, but it was an essential data platform in order to ensure that every French man and woman should know who his / her vote would go to.
 
In March, March twenty-fourth, we organized a demonstration on the symbolical place de la République, in Paris, followed by a meeting during which all the candidates for the presidency of France could express his / her opinion on end-of-life issues. It was a great success in the midst of a sunny spring afternoon. All the candidates were there or had somebody representing them.
 
This knowledge of the opinions of the different candidates to the presidential election allowed us to launch our second communication campaign. (Slide 7)
 
Nicolas Sarkozy, the outgoing president, Marine Le Pen, the extreme-right wing candidate and François Bayrou, the christian-democrat candidate were all shown on their death beds in a hospital thanks to a photo montage.  
 
A shock campaign, as brutal as death actually is under the daunting conditions that we experience in France. There were many reactions, more or less moderate.
 
This campaign went viral and all over the world. Foreign media (Russian, Mexican, Canadian, African) took over our visuals and sent us journalists to interview us. All the French MP's took sides for or against this campaign and arrived exactly where we were trying to bring them : take part clearly in the electoral programs for or against legalizing euthanasia. It was the first time that this issue was at the heart of an electoral campaign.
 
For François Hollande it was his twenty-first campaign promesses, whereas Nicolas Sarkozy refused all possibilities of even debating the issue. Once François Hollande was elected President, the socialist candidates for the National Assembly included this proposition in their program. 
 
Try to imagine : after a promising start for us - his promess twenty-one - François Hollande rushed into a palliative care unit and entrusted Professor Sicard - an officially declared euthanasia opponent - and 8 other people, all of them opposed to legalization - with a mission which inevitably came to the conclusion that it was not necessary to legalize euthanasia. 
 
Whereupon, the CCNE (National consultative ethical commission) of which Didier Sicard is the honorary president, when consulted by President Hollande, gives an opinion according to which our present legislation is the best in the world and only needs a few readjustments in order to be capable of facing all end-of-life issues. If it were true, we would not have remembered the names of Chantal Sébire, Vincent Lambert, Nicolas Bonnemaison, Jean Mercier and so many others, dead under terrible and undignified conditions, not the ones they were asking for. 
 
Reminder : Chantal Sébire was this woman who suffered from a terrible sinus tumor and was not allowed to have an assisted suicide.
 
She ended up committing suicide on her own under mysterious conditions. Vincent Lambert is this young man in a chronical vegetative situation with the family fighting to keep him alive (his mother, under the influence of a religious sect) and his wife asking for a terminal sedation. The wife is asking for is the strict application of the present law : stop hydration and artificial feeding in addition to a deep sedation. Not a very nice way of dying but better than being kept artificially alive.
 
The Board of State (a French Court) pronounced itself in favor of sedation, but the mother carries on, looking for legal backups to keep him alive. Had he written his advanced directives, they would have been respected under the present law.
 
Nicolas Bonnemaison is an emergency doctor who freed some of his patients from their suffering by injecting a lethal product in their drip (they were over 90 years old and unconscious). It was illegal but he was found unguilty by a popular jury. And yet a court, in Angers, pronounced him guilty and he was barred from the French Medical Association, meaning he could not work anymore as a doctor.
 
Jean Mercier is this old man prosecuted for having let his wife swallow lethal pills without trying to stop her and was condemned for non- assistance to a person in danger .
 
The only problem in this concert of praise orchestrated by the anti-choice and admired by the no- choice partisans, the political calendar moved and some of the members of the CCNE (National ethical consultative committee) were replaced. The representatives of the monotheistic religions disappeared. And this same committee, renewed, decided to tackle this issue once again, taking into account the advice of a citizen's jury .
 
And surprise for the observers : while the pseudo- experts, the grand medicine professors, the philosophers, chatterboxes from all over the place were praising the brilliant French genius in end-of-life legislation, twenty French people chosen by a polling institute came to the conclusion that it was a matter of utmost urgency to allow those who ask for it to benefit from a medically assisted suicide or - if unconscious and having written advanced directives - benefit from euthanasia. Far-reaching possibilities. 
 
Thunderstorm in the media and in political circles. Once again the citizens contradict the self- proclaimed experts with their certainties and their power.
 
And when the President and his Prime Minister should have seized the opportunity to propose a bill at Parliament, they beat around the bush and put off any bill proposal for the next months.
 
And here we are with these difficult mediatic situations such as Vincent Lambert and Nicolas Bonnemaison - about which Jacqueline Jencquel will tell you more, since she followed the cases attentively - the government entrusts Jean Leonetti, conservative MP and author of the two thousand and five law which bears his name, to think about a new law. So there he is, with another (silent) socialist MP declaring to all the Catholic media (La Croix, la Vie) that he only accepted this mission on the condition that he would neither mention euthanasia nor assisted suicide… So what, then ? A new campaign for self-satisfaction ?
 
And after this mission a report will be written and a bill submitted to Parliament in December.
 
2) where do we stand today ? How do our campaigning members feel ? 
 
On February second two thousand and sixteen, the French president enacts a new legislation on end-of-life issues - the third in ten years - two thousand and five, two thousand and eight and two thousand and sixteen.
 
This bill is supposed to put the patient at the heart of his / her decision. In fact, all it offers is terminal sedation, which already existed in the previous legislation. The advanced directives are supposed to be compulsory, which they are not, because a doctor may refuse to abide by them if he judges them to be "obviously inappropriate."
 
What a lot of time lost to reach this point. French people continue to suffer; the conditions of their death are dreadful. You should know that a young man like Vincent Lambert, whose fate has still not be decided by the courts, will have the right to either futile intensive medication - after ten years in coma - or deep sedation, meaning dying of hunger and thirst in a time frame that can reach thirty days. Absolute horror.
 
 
So, of course, I hear some people in France talking about consensus, compromise, discussion and negotiation. Soften our position. And what else ?
 
We have not been campaigning for 36 years to get a mini-law. We have not been chosen - our board elected by 9 out of 10 members - to accept a luke-warm law. We have been campaigning for the past thirty-six years to have a pro- choice law. For the only and excellent reason that a French citizen should be in full command of his/ her duties and rights till the very end of his / her life. And in the very first place the right to do what he / she wants with his / her body.
 
No, the women of France did not accept any half- measures when allowed to vote in 1944.
 
No, the women of France did not accept half- measures when they obtained the right to abortion in nineteen seventy five. And no, the victories of our country were not obtained by negotiating with those who occupied us and deprived us of our freedom.
 
3) What is ADMD doing to get a law ? (Slide 13)
 
Today we insist upon our sixty-eight thousand members writing to the MP's, who represent them.
 
The MP's : they are invited to every public meeting we organize in our one hundred and twenty delegations. I participate at about fifty of these meetings every year. We often have members of both chambers of parliament supporting us.
 
But the support we get in the provinces of France is lacking in Paris, at the Parliament.
 
What a pity !
 
The Prime Minister. Our sixty-eight thousand members are given a stereotype letter, which they are to send him and remind him of his commitment in two thousand nine.
 
The members of our committee of honor - intellectuals, artists, politicians - co-signed a letter to him in February.
 
The President of France. He can receive letters with no stamps. So, our members can send him postcards with satirical drawings to remind him of his promises.
 
The " Jeunes de l' ADMD " (Slide 14)
(ADMD's young campaigners) are more and more active and numerous. They run marathons for the ultimate freedom, are present at all gatherings of young people, like Solidays, a festival that brings thousands of young people together and they are organizing for the second time the ADMD tour in July, which is a trip around France . (Slide 15 et 16)
 
Myself, I keep meeting up with MP's from all political parties to tell them that the French people, whatever party they belong to (right, extreme right, left, extreme left, ecologists) want a new law.
 
I also tell them that a law is the only way to provide safeguards against all the slippery slopes generated by the absence of a law , as is the case today in France. The right to have access to assisted suicide and euthanasia will never become an obligation. (Slide 17)
 
Next September, after having organized our militant picnics, we will launch our campaign to pressure the candidates for the presidential and legislative elections which will take place between April and June two thousand and seventeen.
 
Our General Assembly will take place symbolically in Antibes, where the mayor is Jean Leonetti himself, he who has been regulating our end- of - life decisions for the past ten years. Many political and cultural figures will join us in our campaign which will last till the elections.
 
On November the second, for the Ninth World Day for the right to die in dignity, (Slide 18) there will be over one hundred demonstrations throughout the country to call for the attention of the candidates and a communication campaign will be launched as for the last presidential election.
 
In March, once more, we will invite the presidential candidates to present their program in a well-known Parisian venue.
 
From January till April, we will have one thousand volunteers touring France, who will be trained by us and organizing Tupperware meetings and going to all the political meetings to question the candidates.
 
In April, we will be at all the markets of France to ask the French people to call out to the candidates.
 
We will be campaigning on the net :
 
There will be a website which will show the opinions of the candidates on end-of-life issues.
 
Of course, ADMD will be present on all the social networks : Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Périscope. (Slide 19)
 
We are very present on the social networks and just speaking for myself, I have more than eighty thousand followers on Twitter, which shows our influence. 
 
Conclusion 
 
The year that is ahead will be a year of intense campaigning for ADMD. We aim at transforming our sixty-eight thousand members into active campaigners.
 
There will be a campaigner's kit.
 
Meanwhile, our members are submitting all their ideas to us and, there will be a democratic election in June to choose the best of those ideas.
 
Everything will be done for our candidates to commit with no afterthoughts to our freedom cause.
 
Thank you. 

Livres | Discours | Hubert, l'amour d'une vie | Biographical statement of Jean-Luc ROMERO | Jour après jour : des moments forts en photos


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