Ethics review: End of life legislation – the French model
1 Département d'Anesthésie Réanimation, Hôpital Central, Centre Hospitalier Universitaire de Nancy, 29 avenue du Maréchal de Lattre de Tassigny, C.O. n°34, 54035 Nancy Cedex, France
2 Service de Médecine légale et de Droit de la Santé, Faculté de médecine de Nancy, 9 avenue de la Forêt de Haye, 54505 Vandoeuvre les Nancy Cedex, France
3 Département d'Anesthésie Réanimation, Centre Hospitalier Universitaire Pitié-Salpêtrière, Assistance Publique-Hôpitaux de Paris, 47-83 boulevard de l'Hôpital, 75651 Paris Cedex 13, France
Critical Care 2009, 13:204 doi:10.1186/cc7148Published: 23 February 2009
French law 2005-370 of April 22, 2005 (Leonetti's law) brings new rights to patients and clarifies medical practices regarding end of life care. This new law prohibits unreasonable obstinacy in investigations or therapeutics and authorizes the withholding or withdrawal of treatments when they appear "useless, disproportionate or having no other effect than solely the artificial preservation of life". Relief from pain is a fundamental right of patients. With regard to pain control, the law also allows doctors to dispense to patients "in an advanced or final phase of a serious and incurable affliction" anti-pain treatments as needed, even if these treatments, as a side effect, hasten their death. The drafting of advance directives regarding end of life constitutes a new right of patients. The decision to withdraw or withhold a treatment from a patient unable to express their will has to take into account the wishes they might have expressed through advance directives, and/or the wishes of a trusted person or, lastly, of the family. Before making any decision, physicians should respect a collegial medical procedure. Euthanasia defined as the act of terminating one's life on a patient's explicit request remains illegal.