Thursday, March 27, 2008

French woman, whose request for assisted suicide was denied, ended her life by using barbiturates

From The Associated Press

An overdose of barbiturates killed a tumor-stricken French woman just days after officials denied her request for euthanasia, a state prosecutor said in an interview published Thursday.

An autopsy on the body of Chantal Sebire found an amount of fast-acting barbiturates three times the lethal dosage, prosecutor Jean-Pierre Alacchi told Le Monde newspaper.

The sudden death on March 19 of Sebire, a 52-year-old former teacher, raised calls to re-evaluate French law to assure the right to die. Two days earlier, a Dijon court had refused her request for doctor-assisted suicide.

Sebire was diagnosed about eight years ago with esthesioneuroblastoma, a rare form of cancer. A tumor had burrowed through her sinuses and nasal cavities, causing her nose to swell to several times its original size and pushing one eyeball out of the socket.

Alacchi said the investigation was continuing, particularly to determine how Sebire obtained the barbiturate. It was of a type commonly used in veterinary circles, but never by doctors, he told Le Monde.

Repeated calls by The Associated Press to the courthouse in Dijon, in eastern France, were not answered.

Gilles Antonowicz, Sebire's former lawyer, said he did not have any information beyond press reports about Alacchi's interview, but said he feared the case would drag on.

"As I understand it, she ended her life by using barbiturates," Antonowicz said by phone.

"Unfortunately, this case is going to continue ... I don't know what it will prove if they find what they think they'll find."

The prosecutor "could just close his eyes," he added.

Sebire's family opposed the autopsy, but Alacchi maintained it was necessary.