Thursday, 24 Sep 2020

Frenchman in right-to-die case is hospitalised

LYON (AFP) – A terminally ill Frenchman who stopped eating after his euthanasia request was refused has been hospitalised as his condition became critical, his legal representative said on Tuesday (Sept 8).

Alain Cocq, 57, has refused food or drink since Saturday, in a challenge to France’s longstanding refusal of right-to-die laws except in very limited circumstances.

After four days, he was taken to a hospital in Dijon, near his home in eastern France.

“He was hospitalised last night after emergency medics came,” Cocq’s representative, Sophie Medjeberg of the Handi-mais-pas-que association for disabled people, told AFP.

After managing to speak with Cocq by telephone, she later said he accepted the hospitalisation because “he was suffering too much” and wanted to benefit from palliative care.

“He still wants to pass on, but without suffering – it was too difficult,” Medjeberg said.

Contacted by AFP, a spokesman for the Dijon hospital was not able to say if Cocq was again accepting food or water.

He suffers from a rare and painful condition that causes the walls of his arteries to stick together, requiring a series of operations in recent years that has not prevented him from becoming bedridden.

His case is the latest to draw attention to the situation of terminally ill patients in France who are not allowed to die in line with their wishes.

The hunger strike was announced after President Emmanuel Macron responded to a personal letter from Cocq asking for euthanasia, saying that despite his condition, “I am not able to comply with your request,” according to a copy of the letter posted to Cocq’s Facebook page.

Cocq then planned to live-stream his final days on the social media site, but Facebook officials said they would not allow the broadcast, saying its “rules do not allow us to show suicide attempts.”

Under French law, only so-called “passive” euthanasia is permitted for severely ill or injured patients who are being kept alive artificially, with no chance of recovery.

While acceptance of euthanasia has become more widespread in some European countries, French legislators have shown no sign they are ready to revise the country’s stance anytime soon.

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