Assisted suicide: released by the Angers court
A man provided a friend with Charcot’s disease with a prescription that allowed him to kill himself. On Monday 2 May 2022 the Criminal Court of Angers acquitted him in the first instance on the basis of the “state of necessity”. The prosecution filed an appeal.
The defendant is a 62-year-old veterinarian. Eager to remain anonymous, he says, according to his lawyer, he acted “out of compassion and empathy” in 2019, allowing a 59-year-old friend who suffered from Charcot’s disease or ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) to obtain a veterinary product to end his life. ALS is a disabling and progressive neurological condition increasingly invoked by advocates of euthanasia. A few days before the second round of the presidential elections, it was the carer of a patient suffering from the same disease that the presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron declared his preference for the “Belgian model”, in terms of ‘euthanasia …
The veterinary profession does not authorize the prescription of drugs to humans; providing illegal means to commit suicide is otherwise condemned by French law. Initially prosecuted for “murder and attempted murder”, one case was dismissed with these charges; the accused was therefore only prosecuted “for forgery and use of forgery”, for the provision of a fictitious prescription.
To exonerate him from this manifestly illegitimate act, the magistrates used a secular juridical concept, even if rarely produced in court: “The state of necessity”. This means was invented in 1898 to exonerate a young woman from a theft of bread dictated by the misery and hunger of her family. In principle it is raised so that people who have committed a criminal act for laudable reasons are not convicted.
Raised before a court, the state of necessity aims to ask judges to give up an inhuman judgment. But it can also be seen as an abusive way to cheaply discharge one’s responsibilities. In this case, can we also detect a desire to “move the boundaries” causing a legal decriminalization of assisted suicide? The veterinarian’s lawyer affirms that “his gesture is not militant”, but it is not excluded that the attitude of the magistrates has a provocative dimension.
Some commentators on the decision hail it as the beginning of a future law, which they consider inevitable, others are trying to bring to light the notion of “euthanasia exception” which, in their eyes, would allow, without decriminalizing the euthanasia act, to not to sanction it, in certain cases, under the control of the magistrates. In 2019, the Criminal Court of Lyon had released in the name of environmental activists of the “state of necessity” who had been awarded the official portraits of the President of the Republic, to protest against his ecological “inaction”. On appeal, then in cassation, this decision was logically annulled.
The same should apply to the acquittal of Angers, because there will be during a second trial: having the accusation confirmed last May 5 to have appealed, the case will be re-examined later. The state of necessity presupposes a “present or imminent danger”, a “necessary act to safeguard the person” and a “disproportion between the means employed – which must not be exorbitant – and the seriousness of the threat”. None of these criteria seem effective here: there was no urgency in the context of this chronic disease, and the act of causing death, which contradicts the person’s protection, is exorbitant, especially since there were other ways to alleviate and support. the patient.
As such, Alliance VITA deplores the growing use of Charcot’s disease in the end-of-life debate. It is unfair to suggest that patients suffering from such a disease – certainly extremely serious – have no other solution than suicide or euthanasia. There is a risk of stigmatizing these patients, their relatives and healthcare professionals. In reality, ALS patients do not generate unmanageable clinical situations for properly trained teams. The training of caregivers is also the “new struggle” of the brave rapper Pone who lives in Gaillac, in the midst of his family, despite his heavy paralysis due to Charcot’s disease. Not only are palliative care particularly appropriate to accompany these patients without therapeutic relentlessness or euthanasia, but above all to exclude those who need it most from palliative care and suicide prevention would be as absurd as it is inhumane.
For further :
Study: What Support for Charcot’s Disease (ALS)?