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Last Updated: Wednesday, 13 April, 2005, 11:39 GMT 12:39 UK
France adopts 'end of life' law
Image of an injection
The rules on assisting someone to die should change, says the poll
The French senate has approved a law granting terminally ill patients the right to end their life.

The bill allows doctors to stop giving medical assistance when it "has no effect other than maintaining life artificially".

It had already been approved by the lower house of parliament.

Supporters of the legislation say it stops short of permitting euthanasia, because it does not allow the doctor actively to end a patient's life.

They include the conservative government, the opposition Socialists and the Roman Catholic Church.

Sympathy for euthanasia

The new law opens the way for families to request the withdrawal of life support for unconscious patients.

And it allows the administration of pain-killers to patients who have chosen to end their treatment, even if these drugs might hasten death.

Some left-wing senators had wanted the bill to allow "active assistance" to those wishing to die.

But Health Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy was quoted by AFP news agency as saying: "As long as I am health minister, I will reject euthanasia."

Euthanasia was brought to the forefront of French national attention in 2003 with the case of Marie Humbert who had campaigned in vain for her crippled son's right to die.

She attempted to kill him with an injection of barbiturates, which sent him into a coma.

Doctor Frederic Chaussoy switched off his life support and he died shortly afterwards.

Mr Chaussoy was then charged with "poisoning with intent to kill".

Following the incident, opinion polls suggested 80% support for a change in the laws regulating euthanasia in France.

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