Tuesday, March 18, 2008

French case seeking euthanasia for disfigurement

~from AFP

A French court on Monday rejected a request from a 52-year-old severely disfigured former schoolteacher for the right to die, in a case that has stirred much emotion in France, a judicial source said.

The high court in Dijon, eastern France, decided to side with the prosecution which argued that current legislation does not allow Chantal Sebire's doctor to prescribe lethal drugs.

In her appeal to the court, Sebire said she did not want to endure further pain and subject herself to an irreversible worsening of her condition. She asked the court to allow her doctor to help her end her life.

A mother of three who lives in the Bourgogne region of eastern France, Sebire drew a strong outpouring of sympathy when she appealed in a television interview last month for the right to "depart peacefully".

Before-and-after pictures of the woman, her face severely deformed, have been featured in the press and her account of frightened children who run away at the sight of her has drawn sympathy.

Sebire learnt in 2002 that she had developed an esthesioneuroblastoma, an uncommon malignant tumour in the nasal cavity, which she said has led to "atrocious" suffering.

"In 2000, I lost the sense of smell and taste ... and I lost my sight in October 2007," she said in the television interview.

"One would not allow an animal to go through what I have endured," she said before urging President Nicolas Sarkozy to intervene and grant her request.

Commenting on the case, Justice Minister Rachida Dati said last week that "doctors were not there to prescribe lethal drugs".

Legislation adopted in 2005 allows families to request that life-support equipment for a terminally-ill patient be switched off, but does not allow a doctor to take action to end a patient's life.

Sarkozy asked his chief adviser on health issues to contact Sebire and seek a second opinion on her condition.

Sebire has said she will not appeal the decision rendered Monday and that she would find life-terminating drugs through other means.

"I now know how to get my hands on what I need and if I don't get it in France, I will get it elsewhere," she said.

Only 200 cases of the disease have been recorded worldwide in two decades.

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