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The ‘French exception’: the right to continuous deep sedation at the end of life
  1. Ruth Horn
  1. Oxford Big Data Institute, Wellcome Centre for Ethics and Humanities, Oxford, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Ruth Horn, Nuffield Department of Population Health, University of Oxford, Oxford Ox3 7LF, UK; ruth.horn{at}


In 2016, a law came into force in France granting terminally ill patients the right to continuous deep sedation (CDS) until death. This right was proposed as an alternative to euthanasia and presented as the ‘French response’ to problems at the end of life. The law draws a distinction between CDS and euthanasia and other forms of sympton control at the end of life. France is the first country in the world to legislate on CDS . This short report describes the particular context and underlying social values that led to this piece of legislation, and explores its meaning in the wider French context.

  • end-of-life
  • law
  • pain management
  • euthanasia

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  • Contributors The author is the only person who has contributed to the paper.

  • Funding This research was supported by the Well come Trust Society and Ethics Fellowship (100553/Z/12/Z).

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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