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RIGHT TO DIE

Facebook blocks effort of dying Frenchman Alain Cocq to livestream final days

Alain Cocq, who is 57 years old and incurably ill, asked French President Emmanuel Macron to allow him to be terminally sedated.
Alain Cocq, who is 57 years old and incurably ill, asked French President Emmanuel Macron to allow him to be terminally sedated. RFI/Maud Charlet
4 min

A 57-year-old terminally ill Frenchman who had begun broadcasting his final hours on Facebook says the social media platform has blocked his access to livestream video. Alain Cocq called on his thousands of friends and followers to speak out against Facebook's "discriminatory methods and obstruction of freedom of expression".

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Alain Cocq, who suffers from a rare condition in which the walls of the arteries stick together, said he believed he had less than a week to live and would livestream his death on Facebook from Saturday morning, after French President Emmanuel Macron turned down the man's request for euthanasia.

However, Cocq said the social media platform had since blocked his access to livestream video until 8 September. The dying man asked Facebook users and supporters to protest, and said he would find, within 24 hours, an alternative to livestream his dying days.

Alain Cocq called on his friends and followers to speak out against Facebook's obstruction of freedom of speech.
Alain Cocq called on his friends and followers to speak out against Facebook's obstruction of freedom of speech. © Alain Cocq/Facebook

Facebook has been increasingly criticised over the way it polices the content it carries and said on Saturday its rules did not allow it to portray suicide.

"Although we respect (Cocq's) decision to want to draw attention to this complex question, following expert advice we have taken measures to prevent the live broadcast on Alain's account," a Facebook spokesman said. "Our rules do not allow us to show suicide attempts."

"The road to deliverance starts here"

Having finished his last meal on Friday night, Cocq told viewers of his Facebook account that he was happy.

"The road to deliverance starts here and, believe me, I am happy about that. I know that the days ahead are going to be difficult, but I've made my decision and I'm comfortable," he said in a livestreamed message on Friday night.  

Publiée par Alain Cocq sur Vendredi 4 septembre 2020

Earlier, Cocq wrote to President Macron asking to be profoundly sedated so that he could die in peace, but the president wrote back explaining that terminal sedation is not allowed under French law.

"I am not above the law"

"Because I am not above the law, I am unable to comply with your request," Macron said in a letter to Cocq, which the patient has published on his Facebook page.

"I cannot ask anyone to go beyond our current legal framework . . . Your wish is to request active assistance in dying which is not currently permitted in our country," said Macron.

In order to show France the "agony" caused by the law in its current state, Cocq told the French news agency AFP he would broadcast the end of his life on his Facebook page. He believes he unlikely to survive for more than "four to five days".

He said he hoped his struggle would be remembered and "go down in the long term" as a step forwards in changing the law. He stopped all food, drink and medical treatment on Friday night.

"Personal support and profound respect"

Macron said in his latter that "with emotion, I respect your action". And the president added a handwritten postscript, saying: "With all my personal support and profound respect."

An official from the presidential team told AFP that Macron wanted to hail Cocq's commitment to the rights of the handicapped.

An emotive issue

Right-to-die cases have long been an emotive issue in France.

Most divisive was the case of Vincent Lambert who was left in a vegetative state after a traffic accident in 2008 and died in July last year after doctors removed life support following a long legal battle.

The case divided the country as well as Lambert's own family, with his parents using every legal avenue to keep him alive, while his wife and nephew insisted he should be allowed to die.

A French court in January acquitted the doctor who switched off Lambert's life support systems, the court accepting that the accused medic had "perfectly respected his legal obligations".

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