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Two ‘romantic’ suicides fuel French euthanasia debate

© Photo: AFP

Text by Tony TODD

Latest update : 2014-06-24

Two French couples in their 80s have committed suicide in Paris in the space of just four days, sparking renewed debate on euthanasia in France, where assisted death remains illegal.

In the space of just four days two elderly couples have committed suicide in Paris, sparking a renewed debate on euthanasia in France.

The first, last Friday, involved Bernard and Georgette Cazes, both 86. They were found dead, hand in hand, in the luxury Le Lutetia hotel in central Paris.

Their son told daily newspaper Le Parisien on Monday that his parents had been planning their deaths for “decades” and had “feared separation and dependency far more than death itself”.

The couple had planned their deaths down to the last detail. Police found a letter addressed to the public prosecutor demanding the right “to die in a dignified manner” in their hotel room.

Later on Monday, a second Parisian couple, aged 84 and 81, were found dead in their apartment in the city’s upmarket 7th district.

"They committed suicide by taking prescription medicine," a police source said. "They left a letter explaining their actions."

Neighbours described the pair as a "nice elderly couple" who “went to the theatre and liked to go out".

The euthanasia debate

The suicide of two couples who clearly wanted the right to die together in a dignified manner has re-opened the debate over euthanasia, which is illegal in France.

A six-month study on assisted death in France last year said that active euthanasia – when a third person intervenes to cause death – should remain illegal.

But it said that the government should take public opinion into account – with an IFOP poll early in November showing that 92 percent of French people want euthanasia to be an option for patients in great pain or suffering from terminal illnesses.

French President François Hollande promised to look into legalising euthanasia during his 2012 campaign.

Assisted deaths are either legal or have been decriminalised in the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Switzerland, and Belgium.

Jean-Luc Romero, who heads the French Association for the Right to Die with Dignity, told Le Parisien on Monday that only 10 percent of successful suicides in France involved the use of drugs, with the rest forced to take violent action to kill themselves.

"With assisted suicides one can avoid tragedies, they can end life in a few minutes, calmly, without suffering and in the presence of loved ones," he said.

Date created : 2013-11-26

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