Home Lifestyle Is the right to die a human right? Interview with the philosopher Andre Count Spoonville

Is the right to die a human right? Interview with the philosopher Andre Count Spoonville

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While Emmanuel Macron opened the debate on euthanasia and assisted suicide, the Citizens Convention ruled with 84% that the current law had not been adapted. I encountered different situations Return to Forbes France on euthanasia with philosopher André Comte Spoonville on the occasion of the release of his latest book.

In France, the Claeys-Leonetti Act allows for deep and continuous sedation until death for terminally ill patients, but expressly prohibits active euthanasia and assisted suicide. Why is the right to die not recognized in France, in your opinion?

Andre Count Spoonville: I see two main reasons for this. The first is opposition to religious authorities, whether they are Catholic, Protestant, Jewish or Muslim. The second is the reluctance of many doctors, which, by the way, is understandable. But a secular state should not be subject to religious taboos. As for doctors, I completely understand that euthanasia shocks them. They often tell me “I didn’t make medicine to kill people”. I think so ! Indeed, when it comes to euthanasia, doctors and patients are not, if I may say so, on the same side of the syringe. For us patients, euthanasia is a service that we want to be able to ask for. But for the doctor, the one who pushes the syringe, this is not a favor, this is murder! We understand that they don’t want that. I draw two conclusions from this. The first is that the law should of course provide for a conscience clause, as we did for abortion, so that no caregiver is forced to do work that he considers contrary to his moral or religious values. This conscience clause, far from preventing the legalization of abortion, made it possible. Why not the same for IVV (Voluntary End of Life)? The second consequence is that assisted suicide, in all situations in which it is possible (which assumes that the patient is able to take the lethal pill himself, or to depress the pump that activates the infusion), is preferable to euthanasia, because then the patient takes responsibility for his death, without Putting the burden on others. Euthanasia in the strict sense, i.e. death provided by a physician at the request of his patient, should only be applied in the very rare cases in which assisted suicide is technically impossible.

In your opinion, the right to die is a human right?

Andre Count Spoonville: Yes, the right to die is a human right! It is certainly not a fundamental right (the right to life is more precious than the right to death), but it is inseparable from our freedom. Almost all non-religious philosophers agree on this point, from the ancients to the present day. Montaigne said it well: “The most beautiful gift that Nature has given us is that she has left us the key to the fields,” in other words the right to leave. In the name of what does the state claim to curtail my freedom when it does not harm others? The right to die, if one wants, is not absolute freedom (absolute freedom is life), but absolute freedom. Why should I give it up? What right does the state claim to deprive me of it?

The Hippocratic Oath states: “I will not prolong the torment unnecessarily. I have not deliberately provoked death. How do you find a happy medium between these sentences which in certain respects overlap with the same reality?”

First, by developing palliative care, which is often lacking in our country. Everyone knows that the better palliative care is provided, the lower the demand for euthanasia. Much the better! But there are cases when it is not enough, or even irrelevant. Take the case of young Vincent Humbert: 20 years old, paralyzed on all fours after a traffic accident, blind and dumb. He was not at the end of his life! He had no place in palliative care! Moreover, he wasn’t even sick. But he wanted to die and was not able to end his life on his own. If he wanted to live, it goes without saying that he had to be given the means to do it as best or at least as badly as possible. But he wanted to die. His mother and his doctor did the right thing: They gave him the death he wanted. I would do the same, if it were one of my sons.

What classical sources support the right to die and which do you think is the most persuasive school or philosopher?

Andre Count Spoonville: What are the sources? But almost all non-religious philosophers, I tell you, from the ancient Greeks to my sir and friend Marcel Kunsch, who was very proud, he tells me, of being one of the first members of ADMD. The most convincing, in my view, are undoubtedly the Stoics, among the ancients. For example, Seneca, in his Letters to Lucilius: “One owes an account of his life even to others; of his death to himself alone: ​​the best he pleases.” […] The main reason not to complain about life is that it doesn’t hold anyone back from progress. All is good in human affairs as soon as no one remains unhappy except through his own fault. Do you love life so live. don’t you like it You are free to go back whence you came ”(letter 70). And Montaigne is among the modernists, especially because of this passage from the essays: “Death is the cure for all ills. It is a very sure port, never feared and often sought after. […] The most beautiful voluntary death is the most beautiful. life depends on the will of others; Our death. […] The course of joint healing is carried out at the cost of life. They cut us, they cauterize us, they cut off our limbs, they take food and blood from us; One more step forward, you are completely healed! Why is the throat vein not so much under our control as the mediator? [celle qui servait pour les saignées, au pli du coude] ? The strongest diseases, the most powerful treatments! […] God gives us sufficient leave when He puts us in such a condition that it is worse for us to live than die. […]As I do not offend the laws made against thieves, when I take my possessions and cut down my purse, nor those which are directed against arsonists, when I burn my wood, I am not bound by the laws made against murderers because they took my country. life ”(Essais, II, 3, p. 351 from the edition of Villey-Saulnier, in PUF).

Philosopher André Comte-Sponville © André Comte-Sponville

Should the right to die be motivated by medical reasons or is it motivated by the sole desire to exercise freedom (Natalie Higgins earned the right to die after rape)?

Andre Count Spoonville: It is up to the legislator to decide, and obviously it will be necessary to set limits. We will not help the death of a teenager suffering from heartache and depression that we can treat and cure! My idea is that medical assistance in suicide should be limited to three major continuums of conditions: painful and incurable diseases, very serious disabilities, and old age.. For example, my friend Roland Jaccard, who always said that one day he would commit suicide, did it when he was 80 years old. It so happened that I dined with him a month before his death: it was one of the most joyful and friendly evenings I had in my whole life. Why was Roland so elated? Partly because a Mexican friend had given him the lethal product that would allow him to die when he decided to. Which he did a month later. This is still better than the philosopher Gilles Deleuze, who, at the age of 70, suffering from a very serious respiratory failure and wanting to end it, could only do so by throwing himself out of a window 5.y The word he lived in! Not everyone has a Mexican boyfriend! Why shouldn’t my doctor, if I’m so old, if I want to escape Alzheimer’s or years in nursing homes, help me die? Suicide in France is not a crime. Why is assisted suicide one?

Very concretely, what legal improvements would you like to see in France on the issue of euthanasia? Is there a typical European country?

Andre Count Spoonville: I’m not a lawyer! I simply want euthanasia and assisted suicide to be legalized, of course with a number of restrictions and checks and safeguards, which Parliament will have to define. Swiss, Belgian, Dutch or Spanish legislation, without using them as models, should serve as examples: let’s keep the best of each!

Finally, why do you conclude your recent work La clef des champs with a very personal, unpublished chapter on your mother?

Andre Count Spoonville: What I call “improvisation” are prose texts, very free, very spontaneous, very accessible, as close as possible to improvisation (like Schubert’s improvisation, from which I borrow the word), but also as close as possible to what I, as an individual, have experienced , between thought and sensitivity, between philosophy and literature, between thinking and emotion. Some tell me that I invented a new literary and philosophical genre. This gives me a lot of honor. The truth is that i wanted to reconnect with the ideal of Trials Montaigne. Today, when we talk about an essay, we generally aim for a book of 200 or 300 pages. But with Montaigne, no: the essay is not a book, it is a chapter, a brief text, often nearly twenty pages long, between philosophy and autobiography (“I paint myself,” said Montaigne), between reflection and testimony (“I do not study, I say”), And that’s what I wanted to do with my part. I like short forms, I like spontaneous writing, I like to invent form and content, I like to combine reason and originality. Now, to come back to your question, it turns out that my mother, whether unhappy or depressed, committed suicide at the age of 64, is without a doubt the most reckoned person in my life. I grew up, learned to live and love in my mother’s misfortune. I had to talk about it one day, and explain how philosophy helped me heal from this painful childhood! This is the subject of this last improvisation, which I called “Maman”. It is, by far, the most intimate text I have ever written.

key fields and other impromptuthe latest book by André Comte-Sponville © PUF

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