French Debate Legalizing Euthanasia

Article excerpt

A criminal trial of a physician and nurse accused of euthanizing a patient raised public debate and interjected the topic into France's presidential election campaign.

In 2003, Dr. Laurence Tramois, 35, prescribed a lethal dose of potassium chloride for Paulette Druais, 65, who was in a coma and suffering from a terminal stage cancer. Chantal Chanel, 40, a nurse, administered the lethal injection. Druais was in a small hospital in a rural area of southwestern France. Tramois did not consult with the dying woman's family.

During questioning, Tramois defended her decision saying she had wanted to preserve her patient's dignity. She explained that Druais was near death, suffering intestinal complications that would likely bring about fecal vomiting.

In the mid-March trial, Chanel was acquitted; Tramois was convicted and sentenced to a year in prison, which the judge suspended. This will allow Tramois to continue to practice medicine.

Druais' husband supported the two women, thanking them during the trial for their action. "For me, Laurence and Chantal are not defendants but victims," he said. Tramois's sister is married to a son of Druais and has known the family for a number of years.

Just before the trial the Association pour le Droit de Mourir dans la Dignite launched a campaign to legalize euthanasia. More than 2,100 physicians and nurses signed a declaration admitting to having "helped patients to die" by medical means and called for a legalization of euthanasia. …