Doctor and nurse on trial in euthanasia case

13th March 2007, Comments 0 comments

PERIGUEUX, France, March 12, 2007 (AFP) - A doctor who prescribed a lethal injection to a 65-year-old terminally-ill woman took full responsibility for the death of her patient as she went on trial in southern France on Monday.

PERIGUEUX, France, March 12, 2007 (AFP) - A doctor who prescribed a lethal injection to a 65-year-old terminally-ill woman took full responsibility for the death of her patient as she went on trial in southern France on Monday.

Doctor Laurence Tramois, 35, and nurse Chantal Chanel, 40, stand accused of poisoning in August 2003 Paulette Druais, who was dying of pancreatic cancer in a hospital in Saint-Astier in the southwestern Dordogne region.

The case is reviving debate on euthanasia, which is becoming a sensitive campaign issue ahead of next month's presidential election in France.

"I take full responsibility and I consider myself the author of what happened," Tramois said on the first day of the trial before the Dordogne criminal court in Perigueux.

While Tramois is charged with complicity for prescribing the dose of potassium, Chanel stands accused of poisoning Druais as she administered the lethal injection.

During questioning, Tramois defended her decision to prescribe the potassium dose, stating she wanted to preserve her patient's dignity after she developed intestinal complications that could have led to fecal vomiting.

But investigators maintained that the decision was taken without proper consultation with the family of the patient even though Druais had many times expressed her desire to end her life.

Psychological experts testified that Tramois was suffering from a burn-out when she prescribed the injection and was distressed over her patient's deteriorating state.

Tramois, whose sister was Druais' daughter-in-law, was described as close to the patient. The two women have enjoyed the support of Druais' family throughout the ordeal.

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, testified on the behalf of the two women.

"Laurence Tramois and Chantal Chanel are not poisoners.  They simply assessed the case and chose the best solution for the patient," Chaussoy told the court.

Humbert's mother Marie, who also was charged with poisoning her son before the case was dismissed, told a news conference that it was "not right to try honest people who acted out of love."

"I hope with all my heart they are acquitted," she said.

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 two women have also 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.

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.

Nicolas Sarkozy, presidential candidate of the governing right-wing party, has said he believes "there should be limits to the suffering imposed on a human being," without explicitly backing a change to the law.

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

Centrist candidate Francois Bayrou said he opposed going "any further" than the current law.

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

SUbject: French news

0 Comments To This Article