Using the term "assisted death" rather than euthanasia, the council invoked a "duty to humanity" to allow a patient "suffering from an ailment for which the treatment has become ineffective" to die. A medical team, not a sole doctor, would take the decision.
The council's conclusions came after President François Hollande asked it to examine the precise circumstances under which such steps could be authorised, with a view to tabling draft legislation by June.
Changes were necessary, he said, as, "the existing legislation does not meet the legitimate concerns expressed by people who are gravely and incurably ill".
A 2005 law already authorises doctors to administer painkilling drugs at levels they know will, as a secondary effect, shorten a patient's life. "However, the law can offer no solution to certain cases of prolonged agony or to psychological and/or physical pain that, despite the means employed, remain uncontrollable," said the council. In these rare cases, the patient should be allowed to be administered "suitable, deep and terminal sedation", it said.