France24: Parents of an extremely premature baby, currently in hospital in the city of Poitiers, have asked doctors to take their child off life support, or “passive euthanasia”. The doctors, however, say they need more time to evaluate the baby’s condition.
“We made this decision over a week ago,” said the baby’s mother, Mélanie, who was interviewed by France Info. “Who wants their son to live the life of a handicapped person? Maybe some families want this, but we don’t.”
The baby boy, named Titouan, was born on 31 August, four months before his due date. He weighed just under 2lb at birth and suffered from an intracerebral haemorrhage. For now, the doctors at the University Hospital Center of Poitiers (CHU) are unable to judge the extent of the damage to his brain.
“If we want to be able to fully understand the consequences [of the haemorrhage], we can’t rush this. We need a few weeks to evaluate his condition,” said Professor Fabrice Pierre, of the department of gynecology and obstetrics at Poitiers CHU, on French TV channel France Bleu. “Currently, we are not giving him intensive treatment; we are simply giving him life support to give us the time to do a proper evaluation.”
The baby’s parents, Mélanie and Aurélien, who are both in their 30s, say that doctors have already told them that their son will be paralysed on one side and that it is very likely he will be “severely disabled.”
They accuse the “inhumane” doctors of prolonging their son’s suffering.
Currently, euthanasia is illegal in France, though the 2005 law says that doctors are allowed to end or refrain from using treatments or care that result in the artificial prolongation of life, as long as the family agrees with the doctor’s decision. This is often referred to as “passive euthanasia,” or withholding treatments necessary to the continuation of life.
Importantly, the 2005 law also puts the decision in the hands of the doctors.
Faced with the repeated demands of Titouan’s parents, CHU’s neonatal unit sought out the advice of an ethics panel. They have yet to make a decision.
Earlier in the year, French President François Hollande announced that the government planned to enact a tightly-framed law allowing “medical assistance to end one’s life in dignity”.
Close to nine out of ten French people (89%) interviewed said they would be in favour of a law authorising euthanasia, according to a survey published in French daily Le Parisien at the end of June.
In situations when a person is too sick to make the decision themselves, 53% said the family should make the decision, 41% said a doctor should only 6% said a judge should make the decision.
In June, The Council of State, France’s top administrative court ruled in favour of so-called passive euthanasia in the high-profile case of Vincent Lambert, a tetraplegic patient who has been in a state of minimal consciousness for the past six years.