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My English speech at Dignity in Dying (DID)

Dear friends,

Today, more than ever, England deserves to be called " perfidious Albion " which comes from the Agincourt battle. Have you in any way failed to be chivalrous? No, not a single time. You, the British, are just winning battles which we, the French, don't seem to be winning, although we are supposed to be the country of “human rights”. On the difficult road towards freedom, you seem to be way ahead of us.

Indeed, Great Britain, which always appeared to be the guardian of all traditions, seems to be drowning in a reforming, nearly anarchistic storm... Sorry, I am joking.

After having abolished hunting in 2005, you just legalized same sex marriage without any of the problems and the massive homophobic demonstrations we had in France and, now, you are about to legalize assisted suicide.

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Being an active campaigner myself, I can only admire the excellent job you have done, tell you how much I admire and respect you for all the work you have accomplished. My heartfelt congratulations to the team of Dignity in Dying.
Do you remember my visit in May twenty thirteen (2013), a year ago? It was during my language course in London. I hope you notice the improvement of my language skills in spite of this bloody French accent? Forgive me if I don't do justice to your beautiful language.

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I came then to tell you how much we were hoping for French president Hollande to honour his campaign promise on legalizing euthanasia. Remember we chopped off our King's head for not doing so. I told you how we were campaigning and what our methods were.

However, from one commission to the next, from one report to the next, from one citizen's jury to the next, we get the answer from biourocrats, usually unfavorable, although, the French people are always favorable to a change in the law.
France is a country in which 94 percent of the population is favorable to a change in the legislation, 60 percent of the doctors are also favorable to a law allowing euthanasia and assisted suicide. However, the Parliament is scared to death. It just won't address the subject for fear of street demonstrations organized by the extreme-right conservatives, who are still pining for past times, during which the Catholic Church was all-powerful and took all the important decisions from birth to death, burning some witches and heretics on the way. No wonder Henry the 8th got Britain away from the Vatican's claws.
In the meantime, end-of-life tragedies keep happening in our country.  Right now, the destiny of a young man is being discussed, although he has been in a coma for the past 6 years. His wife had managed to have him unplugged by the medical team so that he could rest in peace. Most of the family backed her, but his mother suddenly took on the part of "grieving mother" under the influence of a sect, the Saint Pius fraternity, and started to openly demand that her son be brought back to life. The court of justice was terrorized into stopping the whole procedure so as to keep her son alive at all costs. The Council of State started asking for medical advice. All the specialists are unanimous about the irreversibility of the young man's condition.

So far, the Council of State has not yet taken any decision concerning the use of intensive medication or deep sedation, dying of hunger and thirst.

Whatever happens, one should bear in mind:

1)   The Council of State will not be able to forever decide the fate of 66 million French people;
2)   The choice between intensive medication and sedation which includes being hungry and thirsty till the end is just not acceptable. It is a source of distress both for the patient and the relatives.
3)   In a secular democracy like France, a citizen should be able to make his or her own choices about matters concerning their own life.

You must realize that I am often questioned at the National Assembly, the Senate or the Council of State. There is always somebody to tell you that your life belongs to some superior being and nobody should decide when they should die. End of the rational debate.

Can you imagine how far we still have to go in order to reach an appeased society, respectful of individual choices, which does not judge, does not despise, does not stigmatize.

Imagine the pressure we have to maintain on the Government to make it accept the fact that somebody who helps a dying person to die faster and with no further pain than the one of separation, should not be considered a criminal. It is not heresy to want to die a little sooner and not prolong one's agony.

And, of course, the most obvious of all reasons: death is the only certainty we have and that it is pointless to hide one's head in the sand instead of getting prepared to die. Socrates said thousands of years ago: “Life is about preparing for Death.”

That is why we encourage our fifty five thousand (55.000) members to write to the people they voted for.
Firstly, the MP's:  we do that every time we have a public meeting that we organize in our one hundred and thirty (130 delegations).  I go to about 50 of them every year and we often have MP's in the audience. They usually support us. However being supported privately in the provinces is not like being supported publicly in Paris, at Parliament. What a pity!
Secondly, the Prime Minister, Manuel Valls, and the Health Minister. When he was an MP, Manuel Valls, actually proposed a bill in Parliament in 2009 to legalize euthanasia. We wrote an article in our newsletter, which can be a template for the 55.000 members to write a letter to the Prime Minister and remind him of this. Our patrons: artists and intellectuals also wrote an open letter on May the 5th to the Prime Minister to remind him of his 2009 proposal. We are still waiting for his answer.

Thirdly and finally, the President of the French Republic: everybody is allowed to write to him without putting a stamp on the letter. Our members send him postcards on a regular basis

We noticed that we have increasing numbers of young people who become ADMD members. They run marathons for the ultimate freedom and participate in fairs and cultural events.
For my part, I never get tired of meeting MP'S from the majority and from the opposition. Wherever they come from: extreme right, right, extreme left, left, ecologists, they all support our bill. I keep telling them that a new legislation would avoid all the slippery slopes induced by the lawless situation that we have now in France. I also tell them that it will never become an obligation to end one's life that way.

The month of July or the autumn season is crucial to us, because only then will we finally know if a bill will be presented and if our Parliament will lead us towards the path of this last liberty we are campaigning for and which the majority of our people want to follow.

I envy you for living in the UK. You are following the path of wisdom and justice. I admire you for that.
I want to tell your great country that it is admirable in its endeavour towards progress.

I just want to give you a piece of advice: do not behead your queen as we beheaded our king. Your monarchy is more revolutionary than our Republic. Apart from the fact that she wears beautiful hats, as I already mentioned in my speech last year, which you certainly would not like to be deprived of.

Thank you for your patient attention. And I apologize again for my French accent.
Jean-Luc Romero
Président de l’ADMD

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