Doctor and nurse on trial in euthanasia case

12th March 2007, Comments 0 comments

PERIGUEUX, France, March 12, 2007 (AFP) - A doctor and a nurse went on trial Monday in southern France on charges of poisoning a 65-year-old terminally-ill woman in a case that is reviving the debate over legalising euthanasia.

PERIGUEUX, France, March 12, 2007 (AFP) - A doctor and a nurse went on trial Monday in southern France on charges of poisoning a 65-year-old terminally-ill woman in a case that is reviving the debate over legalising euthanasia.

Doctor Laurence Tramois, 34, is accused of involvement in the alleged poisoning after she prescribed a lethal injection for Paulette Druais. Druais was dying of pancreatic cancer in a hospital in Saint-Astier in the southwestern Dordogne region.  

Nurse Chantal Chanel, 40, who administered the injection in August 2003, stands accused of poisoning Druais.

Tramois has defended her decision to prescribe the lethal injection, stating she acted out of "respect for the physical integrity" of her patient who was suffering from intestinal problems and was "rotting from the inside."

The two women have won support for their decision to end Druais' life from some 2,000 doctors and nurses who last week called for euthanasia to be legalised in France.

In a statement published in the media, the health professionals said charges against Tramois and Chanel should be immediately dropped and new legislation adopted.

A verdict is expected on Friday. Tramois and Chanel face a possible jail sentence of 30 years. 

As the trial got underway in the Dordogne criminal court in Perigueux, a group of supporters formed a human chain outside the tribunal to press their campaign for the right to die.

Among them was Frederic Chaussoy, a doctor who was cleared in a separate high-profile euthanasia case last year involving quadraplegic, mute and nearly blind 22-year-old Vincent Humbert.

Humbert's mother Marie who also was charged with poisoning her son in the case that was later dismissed is expected to testify during the trial in the defense of the two women.

The two women were placed under formal investigation in November 2003 after Chanel gave Druais the potassium injection prescribed by Tramois, who was close to the family.

Tramois is the sister of Druais' daughter-in-law.

The two women have enjoyed the support of Druais' family throughout the ordeal. 

Druais, who was in the palliative care unit of Saint-Astier hospital, slipped into a coma on August 23, 2003 and died on August 25, a few minutes after receiving the injection.

While the family remained silent about Druais' end, a senior hospital staff member reported the injection to the director of the establishment, who went to the police.

The court case is stirring debate on euthanasia ahead of the April-May presidential election.

Francois Hollande, the leader of the Socialist Party, said Monday that he did not support a wide-open decriminalisation of euthanasia but said that steps must be taken to ensure that the legislation "evolves."

"All of the conditions must be met.  When we are talking about unbearable suffering and respecting the dignity of someone who is about to pass away, then the legislation must evolve," said Hollande.

Legislation adopted in 2005 states that families can 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.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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