Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy

, Volume 16, Issue 1, pp 105–113 | Cite as

Law, bioethics and practice in France: forging a new legislative pact

  • Denis BerthiauEmail author
Scientific Contribution


In France, bioethics norms have emerged in close interaction with medical practices. The first bioethics laws were adopted in 1994, with provisions for updates in 2004 and most recently, in 2011. As in other countries, bioethics laws indirectly refer to certain fundamental values. The purpose of this paper is threefold. First, I shall briefly describe the construction of the French bioethics laws and the values they are meant to protect. Secondly, I will show that the practice of clinical ethics, as reported in a few studies on ART, living organ donation and PGD, challenge the role attributed to doctors as “gatekeepers” of those fundamental values. Thirdly, I will suggest that the quality of medical practices would improve if the law focused on strengthening the tacit pact between doctors and patients, rather than putting doctors in charge of enforcing societal values. Doctors, for their part, would limit their role to what they can do best: provide sufficient patient support and safe care. Against those who argue that we should dispense with bioethics laws altogether, I hold that the laws are useful in order to limit the development of abusive practices. However, a new legislative approach should be adopted which would a positive presumption in favor of patients’ requests.


Bioethics laws France Legal norms Practices ART PGD LDLT Patient support 


  1. Fournier, Véronique, Emma Beetlestone, Florence Plainguet, Sophie Branchereau, Emmanuel Jacquemin, Olivier Scatton, and Olivier Soubrane. 2008. Le consentement dans le don vivant d’organes: Un alibi éthique? Bioethica Forum 1(2): 115–120.Google Scholar
  2. Monnier, S. 1986. Les comités d’éthique et le droit: éléments d’analyse sur le système normatif de la bioéthique. Paris: L’Harmattan.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of LawUniversity of Paris DescartesParisFrance
  2. 2.Centre for Clinical EthicsHôpital CochinParisFrance

Personalised recommendations