The contentious bill passed with resounding support from parliament members, with 436 voting in favor and 34 voting against. The bill will go to the French Senate and is expected to get final approval by May or June.
Should it be approved, the law will allow doctors to administer "deep sedation until death" to terminally ill patients who are in pain if they request it. According to Jean Leonetti, the member of Parliament who co-authored the bill, the purpose of the law is to allow "sleep before death to avoid suffering."
Additionally, the law will serve to protect doctors who have stopped live-saving measures and administered sedation to terminally ill patients who are unable to give consent.
"Everyone has the right to a death that is dignified and soothed," the bill reads, and health professionals should "implement all the means at their disposal to fulfill this right."
Polls show that more than 90% of the French people are in favor of the proposal. Yet, despite the high approval rating and the overwhelming support in parliament, the bill remains a divisive issue for lawmakers on both sides of the political spectrum.
Eighty-three lawmakers abstained from voting on the bill, with several voicing concerns regarding euthanasia, which is outlawed in the country. Critics on the right have said that the bill is a way of legalizing the practice, while critics on the left have complained it does not go far enough in doing so.
Supporters dismissed allegations of the bill legalizing euthanasia as disguise, saying that under the law, the precise time of death cannot be determined, as it would only allow for doctors to induce sleep for patients within "hours or days" of their death.
Socialist Senator Bariza Khiari, also warned that the bill may alienate socially conservative voters, such as Muslims, from the ruling party only weeks ahead of local elections on March 22 and 29.
"With this bill, the government is taking the risk of alienating yet more Muslims from the Socialist party,” She said to Reuters. "There is a risk of massive abstention which could really hurt us in the next election."
The deep sedation bill falls in line with President Francois Hollande’s socialist reform efforts. In his 2012 campaign, Hollande had promised to reopen the agenda on euthanasia. He said that the bill is a big step forward.