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Doc faces charges over euthanasia

A DOCTOR has been accused of poisoning seven patients who, he said, were in great suffering and terminally ill.

The case of Nicolas Bonnemaison has relit the euthanasia debate with a survey saying 94% of people were in favour.

Bonnemaison, 50, admits giving lethal injections to patients in Bayonne hospital and is on bail awaiting trial. The case has divided opinion, with hospital staff and the local branch of the doctors’ body the Conseil de l’Ordre, backing him. However, the national body, Cnom, lodged a complaint, saying he did not follow so-called Leonetti laws on the end of life.

Apart from the criminal charges, he could also be struck off.

Named after Antibes mayor and Alpes-Maritimes MP Jean Leonetti, the laws say doctors may decide to end treatments for dying people that would needlessly prolong suffering, and may use palliative care including painkillers which may have sideeffects of shortening life.

However deliberate ending of life with an injection is not allowed. The ruling UMP party joined the debate with new proposals which fall short of any major change. They suggest creating a charter requiring hospitals to better inform patients of their rights and systematically offering counselling to families of the terminally ill.

Interviewed by Connexion earlier this year, Mr Leonetti said France already had a “good balance”, similar to the UK’s. “A doctor’s job is to care and if he does not abandon the patient and does not let them suffer, in the immense majority of cases of dying people I have met that is what they wanted, they were not asking to be killed.”

However, an Ipsos survey for Ouest France said 94% of French adults were in favour of allowing doctors to end the lives of those who have incurable, unbearable diseases and who ask to die. This has risen from 10 years ago, when 88% were in favour.

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