Suspended sentence in euthanasia trial

16th March 2007, Comments 0 comments

PERIGUEUX, France, March 15, 2007 (AFP) - A French doctor was given a year's suspended prison sentence Thursday for poisoning a terminally ill woman in a case that has raised the issue of euthanasia in France's presidential election.

PERIGUEUX, France, March 15, 2007 (AFP) - A French doctor was given a year's suspended prison sentence Thursday for poisoning a terminally ill woman in a case that has raised the issue of euthanasia in France's presidential election.

Laurence Tramois, 35, was convicted of prescribing a lethal injection that ended the patient's life, but the nurse who administered the injection, Chantal Chanel, 40, was acquitted by the court in the southwestern town of Perigueux.

The two women had faced possible jail sentences of 30 years.

Paulette Druais was suffering from pancreatic cancer when the 65-year-old died in a hospital in the southwestern Dordogne region in August 2003, minutes after Chanel injected her with a lethal dose of potassium chloride.

French 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.

In her final testimony to the court, Tramois, her voice trembling with emotion, said she had known Druais for 18 years and that she felt like a member of her family.

Tramois' sister Sophie is also married to Druais' son.

"The therapeutic course that I had been following had reached its limit," Tramois said, adding that the patient, heavily sedated with morphine, had developed intestinal complications that would lead to fecal vomiting.

Tramois said that she decided to resort to a lethal injection after Druais had told her that she did not want to die "in filth."

Druais's husband and son testified during the trial, which opened on Monday, that they were grateful to Tramois and Chanel for their actions and insisted that Paulette Druais had asked to end her life.

But the son Laurent admitted during testimony on Wednesday that the family had never "broached the topic" of euthanasia even though they were distraught over the failing health of his mother.

Investigators maintain that the decision to administer the injection was taken without proper consultation with the patient's family.

Prosecutors had requested suspended sentences of two years for Tramois and one year for Chanel, and warned jurors that an acquittal would send the wrong signal about "mercy killing."

The jury decided that Tramois should not get a criminal record because of the conviction.

The case has revived debate about euthanasia in the run-up to France's April-May presidential election, pushing candidates to take a stance on the right to die.

Nicolas Sarkozy, the governing right-wing party's candidate, 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 that steps must be taken to ensure that the legislation "evolves."

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

Tramois and Chanel last week won support for their decision to end Druais' life last week, when 2,000 doctors and nurses signed a petition that said they too had helped patients to die, and calling for euthanasia to be decriminalised.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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