Reimbursement of the costs of childcare, overnight stays in a hotel and covered meals, payment of a daily wage of 94.60 euros, access to a psychological cell if necessary… Everything is designed so that the 170 or so participants of the Citizens’ Convention on the End of Life, which begins on Friday, December 9, as calmly as possible form an opinion on improving support for the dying or terminally ill, understand the intricacies of the debate on euthanasia and assisted suicide, topics on which the government is seeking of them to contribute in March.
The day before the launch, the organizers of this civic agora did not show much concern about the protagonist’s non-arrival. “Experience shows that at citizens’ conferences, participants get into the game very quickly, notes Jean-Daniel Levy, deputy director of Harris Interactive, in charge of the draw for the meeting. When people come, they ask, “What am I doing here?” And very soon, there’s a whole life organized between them, Whatsapp groups that are created…” However, the initial panel includes more than 170 people, so that, despite defections, the threshold of 150 planned at the beginning was met by the end of the work.
Citizens called by phone during more than 100,000 calls form a group that reflects the adult population in France, according to social, demographic and territorial criteria. They are between 18 and 87 years old, 54% are men, 20% are 65 and older, 16% are between 18 and 34 years old… The sample includes eight women from very precarious situations, contacted through ATD Fourth World.
This “France in miniature” will set up its quarters in the Palais d’Iéna, headquarters of the Economic, Social and Environmental Council (CESE), host and guarantor of the good democratic functioning of the system. The first two weekends will be devoted to the integration of the rules of civil debate, and first of all to the absorption of the basics of the topic. For the convention, the National Center for Palliative and End-of-Life Care produced a hundred-page document with patient testimonies and keys to understanding terms and laws in France and beyond.
A list of the first hearings decided by the convention’s board of directors lists, on Saturday, December 10, the list of Alain Claeys, co-author of the 2016 Claeys-Leonetti bill and co-reporter of the opinion of the National Ethics Advisory Board on September 13 paves the way for the legalization of active assisted dying. the same day, Swiss, Belgian and Italian experts will present their country’s legislation. Guardians and representatives of cults will be monitored from December 16 to 18.
For the next sessions, citizens will be able to “to make proposals for hearings that will be submitted to the board of directors who will be responsible for ensuring balance and plurality of viewpoints”, specifies Claire Thoury, president of “co-gov”, guarantor of respect for neutrality in the course of work.
After a series of hearings, thematic workshops, possible trips abroad, the consideration phase follows. Citizens will then be able, if necessary, to vote to resolve their debates.
The convention will also live outside the walls of the EESC. The hearings will be streamed live on a designated website. Anyone who wants to can leave a statement. For work, this mass citizen has a budget of more than 4 million euros.