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A French court has convicted a doctor over the poisoning death of a terminally ill cancer patient in a trial that has raised the issue of euthanasia in France’s presidential race, the International Herald Tribune reported.

Dr Laurence Tramois was given a one-year suspended prison sentence over the August 2003 killing of pancreatic cancer patient Paulette Druais in the town of Saint-Astier in the region of Perigueux. A nurse who had also been accused of carrying out euthanasia in the same case was acquitted. Chantal Chanel allegedly delivered the fatal dose of potassium prescribed by Dr Tramois.

Those involved in the case had a family connection, the newspaper reported. The 35-year-old doctor is the sister of a daughter-in-law of the dead woman. In the trial, Tramois expressed regret that science was unable to help the patient.

The nurse who was acquitted, Chantal Chanel, said during the trial that she didn’t have the impression of killing the patient, but of helping her “through the passage … It was the cancer that killed her.” Euthanasia is illegal in France.

The trial sparked such controversy in France that it led Socialist Party presidential candidate, Segolene Royal, to announce that she would push for a law to allow euthanasia under certain conditions if she were elected in May.

The candidate for the conservative party, Nicolas Sarkoky, had already suggested he might be in favour of a law permitting euthanasia, the International Herald Tribune said, citing one of his recent comments: “Faced with suffering, we can’t just sit there doing nothing”.

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