Disfigured woman found dead after French court rejects euthanasia
PLOMBIERES-LES-DIJON, France, March 20, 2008 - A severely disfigured French woman was found dead at her home Wednesday, a local prosecutor said, only two days after a court rejected her request for the right to die, in a case that has stirred much emotion in France. The high court in Dijon, eastern France, decided Monday to side with theprosecution which argued that current legislation does not allow the doctor of52-year-old former schoolteacher Chantal Sebire to prescribe lethal drugs. In her appeal to the court, Sebire had said she did not want to endurefurther pain and subject herself to an irreversible worsening of hercondition. She asked the court to allow her doctor to help her end her life. Sebire's body was found at her home in the eastern town ofPlombieres-les-Dijon in the Bourgogne region on Wednesday afternoon. The cause of her death was not immediately known, Dijon prosecutorJean-Pierre Allachi said. A mother of three, Sebire attracted a strong outpouring of sympathy whenshe appealed in a television interview last month for the right to "departpeacefully". Before-and-after pictures of the woman, her face severely deformed, havebeen featured in the press along withd her account of frightened children whoran away at the sight of her. Sebire learnt in 2002 that she had developed an esthesioneuroblastoma, anuncommon malignant tumour in the nasal cavity, which she said had led to"atrocious" suffering. "In 2000, I lost the sense of smell and taste... and I lost my sight inOctober 2007," she said in the television interview. "One would not allow an animal to go through what I have endured," she saidbefore 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-supportequipment for a terminally-ill patient be switched off, but does not allow adoctor to take action to end a patient's life. Sarkozy asked his chief adviser on health issues to contact Sebire and seeka second opinion on her condition. Sebire had said she would not appeal the decision rendered Monday and thatshe 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 inFrance, I will get it elsewhere," she said. Only 200 cases of the disease have been recorded worldwide in two decades. Sebire's death came on the same day as 78-year-old Belgian author HugoClaus's death by euthanasia while suffering from Alzheimer's disease. Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg are the only European Unions thatcurrently allow euthanasia.