PARIS (Reuters) – A woman suffering from an incurable and disfiguring cancer failed on Monday (17 Mar) in her bid to set a legal precedent in France for patients seeking medical help to end their own lives.
A court in the eastern city of Dijon ruled that Chantal Sebire, 52, could not have a doctor help her die because it would breach both the code of medical ethics and the law, under which assisted suicide is a crime.
“Ms Sebire’s request, which is understandable in human terms, cannot succeed in law,” the court said in its ruling.
“While Ms. Sebire’s physical deterioration deserves compassion, under French law the judge must reject the request.”
Although active euthanasia is illegal in France, a 2005 law allows doctors to withhold treatment with a patient’s consent in certain circumstances.
Sebire, whose face is painfully bloated and distorted by the rare tumor growing in her sinuses, sought permission for assisted suicide in the hope of establishing a precedent.
The case has renewed the euthanasia debate in France. More than 2,000 doctors and nurses signed a petition last year saying they had helped patients to die and appealing for a change in the law to allow euthanasia.
Sebire’s doctors say she would fall into a coma and die if she stopped taking medication to deal with the rare tumor, but she insisted on going to court to try to secure the right to an assisted suicide.
Active euthanasia is legal in the Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland and Luxembourg, but French courts regularly rule against doctors who administer lethal drugs to end life, although they are usually spared prison.
Opponents of euthanasia, including the Roman Catholic Church, say the sanctity of life overrides all other factors. Many also say a right to kill patients could easily be abused.
Sebire said she may now seek an assisted suicide elsewhere.
“I simply wanted to show that I was fighting to raise awareness, and in this fight I followed the law to the end,” she told France 5 television on Sunday.
“I now know how to obtain what I need, and if I cannot obtain it in France, I will obtain it elsewhere.”