Maryannick PavageauFrance has just
awarded the Légion
d’honneur to a woman who has been a locked-in quadriplegic for 30 years.
Pavageau received the distinction for her battle against euthanasia. A
of Sainte Nazaire, on the Atlantic coast, she gave an interview about
her life to
the local newspaper after this week’s award:

“I was 30 years old when I was struck down by this syndrome after a
stroke. The disease was little known at the time, but Jean-Dominique
Bauby has
described it in his book The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. It is a
of the limbs, sometimes more, but you retain consciousness. I was one of
first to survive. After three months in a coma, I woke up to the
amazement of the
doctors! I started speech therapy and I spent 32 months in the

Mme Pavageau is a member of the
Association of Locked-in Syndrome (ALIS) and contributed to the 2008
commission report about euthanasia in France. “All life is worth
she told the newspaper. It can be beautiful, regardless of the state we
are in.
And change is always possible. That is the message of hope that I wish
convey. I am firmly against euthanasia because it is not physical
suffering that
guides the desire to die but a moment of discouragement, feeling like a
All those who ask to die are mostly looking for love.”

Despite her
paralysis and her need for round-the-clock care, she was inspired by her
for her family to fight for life. “My life is not
what it could have been but it’s my life. Finally, I have been faithful
to my
values. I had the love of my husband and my daughter Miriam, who was two
years old
at the time and that gave me the strength to fight. Despite my
difficulties speaking
Miriam has always understood me.”

She is proud to receive France’s highest decoration: “The Legion of
is a great recognition and I am very proud and excited to be decorated.
Everyone who has a just and strong message to pass on should receive

Two years ago, she
an article
in which she strongly criticised discussion of
in the media. “Public statements produce unexpected collateral damage
people suffering from serious illness such as Locked-In Syndrome. We are
consumers of TV and radio programs. In response to our deep
discouragement –
and who is free from that? – we are only offered this final right,
baptised as a sign of love. A recent study on the quality of life of
locked-in sydndrome patients
found, to the astonishment of the medical profession, that when asked
‘if you had
a heart attack, would you want to be resuscitated?’, the great majority
of us
answered: Yes.” ~,

Michael Cook

Michael Cook is the editor of MercatorNet. He lives in Sydney, Australia.