05.09.2020 Europe

Incurably ill Frenchman starts livestreaming final struggle in right-to-die case

By Michael Fitzpatrick - RFI
RFI/Maud Charlet
LISTEN SEP 5, 2020
RFI/Maud Charlet

A 57-year-old Frenchman who is suffering from an incurable condition has begun broadcasting his final hours on social media as he refuses to take food, drink or medicine. French President Emmanuel Macron has already turned down the man's request for euthanasia.

Alain Cocq, who suffers from a rare condition in which the walls of the arteries stick together, said he believed he had less than a week to live and would livestream his death on Facebook from Saturday morning.

Having finished his last meal on Friday night, Cocq told viewers of his Facebook account that he was happy.

"The road to deliverance starts here and, believe me, I am happy about that. I know that the days ahead are going to be difficult, but I've made my decision and I'm comfortable." 

Earlier, Cocq wrote to President Macron asking to be profoundly sedated so that he could die in peace, but the president wrote back explaining that terminal sedation is not allowed under French law.

"I am not above the law"

"Because I am not above the law, I am unable to comply with your request," Macron said in a letter to Cocq, which the patient has published on his Facebook page.

"I cannot ask anyone to go beyond our current legal framework . . . Your wish is to request active assistance in dying which is not currently permitted in our country," said Macron.

In order to show France the "agony" caused by the law in its current state, Cocq told the French news agency AFP he would broadcast the end of his life on his Facebook page. He believes he unlikely to survive for more than "four to five days".

He said he hoped his struggle would be remembered and "go down in the long term" as a step forwards in changing the law. He stopped all food, drink and medical treatment on Friday night.

"Personal support and profound respect"

Macron said in his latter that "with emotion, I respect your action". And the president added a handwritten postscript, saying: "With all my personal support and profound respect."

An official from the presidential team told AFP that Macron wanted to hail Cocq's commitment to the rights of the handicapped.

An emotive issue

Right-to-die cases have long been an emotive issue in France.

Most divisive was the case of Vincent Lambert who was left in a vegetative state after a traffic accident in 2008 and died in July last year after doctors removed life support following a long legal battle.

The case divided the country as well as Lambert's own family, with his parents using every legal avenue to keep him alive, while his wife and nephew insisted he should be allowed to die.

A French court in January acquitted the doctor who switched off Lambert's life support systems, the court accepting that the accused medic had "perfectly respected his legal obligations".

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