It has often been said the a French do it differently; though what exactly it is that they do differently seems left undefined.
That is until the news reports today that a panel, made up of 18 citizens picked by polling firm Ifop to represent the French population, decided that assisted suicide was a good thing for the French to pursue - as well as euthanasia in some oddly defined circumstances.
Why a polling firm was required to randomly select 18 French people for a "Conference of Citizens" is not stated. Nor do we gain an insight into why such a group was charged with making such a grave and momentous decision on behalf of the entire French population.
This comes after an earlier meeting of France's medical ethics council recommended that assisted suicide be allowed in exceptional cases.
Processing an issue such as this through successive councils and meetings may also be a 'French way' of doing things, but it also holds some political advantages for French President, Francois Hollande.
Hollande's government has been in a spot of bother for sometime and, I'm told, is increasingly unpopular. What better way, then, to introduce a divisive and controversial subject than to hide behind the 'Conference of Citizens' decision and that of the ethics committee under the rubric of 'the will of the people'? "Moi? Mais, Non!"
According to the MedicalXpress website the 'Conference of Citizens' is only 'in favour of euthanasia in very specific circumstances, such as when the patient is not able to give his or her direct consent, but ruled out legalising the practice as a whole.'
What? Euthanasia without consent? What about all those poor folk who do want to give consent! I jest, but I think you see the point.
Paradoxically the Conference was quoted as saying that: "The possibility of committing medically assisted suicide... is, in our eyes, a legitimate right of a patient close to death or suffering from a terminal pathology, based first and foremost on their lucid consent and complete awareness." So consent is supposedly a necessity for competent people but not required for others.
I guess this closes the circle. If you want to die you can ask for it and a grateful nation will attend to your needs. But if you don't want it or don't get around to asking, you'll get it anyway.
The panel, of course, also called for more palliative care. This is simply a sop. Only one in five French citizens have access to palliative care at the moment. How is this about choice?
Trusting in governments of any persuasion to ensure that no citizen suffers for want of palliative care is a Utopian dream from a base of one-in-five; especially with virtually all European economies remaining in the financial doldrums. But maybe I'm reading this all wrong: perhaps killing off those who don't get the choice of good care is an easier way of adjusting the statistics.
The French disdain for bureaucracy and government is a well known and, might I say, charming trait. 'Je proteste!' Indeed, the envy of trades union everywhere, the French regularly march in their streets. Time will tell whether they do so over this issue; especially as recent polls suggest that '92 percent of those questioned were in favour of the practice for "people afflicted with terminal and unbearable illnesses.' That result from a survey by the Ifop polling group.
Wait! Haven't we heard the name: Ifop somewhere before?