French lawmakers have approved a bill that will allow for sedative death of terminally ill patients not amounting to euthanasia. If the bill is eventually passed, doctors will be permitted to stop life-sustaining treatments and instead medicate patients until they die naturally of their illness or until they starve.

After the bill's approval in the National Assembly, Socialist lawmaker Alain Claeys, co-author of the bill, said, "Everyone must be able to decide how to live the very last moments. Our text has one purpose: fighting a 'bad dying' that still happens too often in France."

France legalised "passive euthanasia" in 2005, under which treatment needed to maintain life can be withheld or withdrawn. But the government has refused to go further and allow full euthanasia, despite public support. The current bill also falls short of euthanasia but allows wider medical intervention to end one's life than existing law.

The new bill states that it will allow patients to request "deep, continuous sedation altering consciousness until death" but only when their condition is likely to lead to a quick death. Consultation with family would be necessary in the case of those who are unable to express their will – people in coma or in a vegetative state.

In July 2013, French President François Hollande stated his personal support for decriminalisation of voluntary euthanasia. It was also one of his presidential campaign promises, despite objections from France's National Consultative Ethics Committee.

Euthanasia is illegal in most countries although assisted dying for terminally ill patients has been approved by many top courts across the globe. Belgium, one of the first countries to legalise euthanasia, carried out more than 2,000 mercy killings last year, the most since it was legalised in 2002, the government said on 27 January.