French doctor convicted of assisted suicide tries to take his own life

Printed from:

Should physician-assisted suicide be legal in Massachusetts?

Some say the measure helps people seeking to avoid a painful death, others believe unintended consequences could easily arise when insurers are left to choose expensive, life-prolonging treatments or cheap, fatal drugs. What do you believe?




A French emergency room doctor convicted of illegally giving lethal injections to at least one terminally ill patient was found nearly dead Saturday in what appears to be an attempted suicide, according to The Telegraph.

Nicolas Bonnemaison, 54, is in critical condition after he was found unconscious in his car by the side of a dirt road in Tosse, a town in south-western France. Two joggers noticed the engine running in his parked car, as the doctor apparently tried to gas himself with exhaust fumes.

The attempted suicide was seemingly prompted by a federal court decision the previous week, when the doctor was convicted of administering a lethal injection to a terminally ill patient and given a suspended prison sentence. This decision came through a French appeals court, partially overturning his acquittal from a lower court last year where he was accused of killing seven terminally ill patients. Though convicted of only killing one of the seven, an 86-year old woman, he was facing a maximum sentence of life imprisonment when prosecutors admitted the he was, “not a killer … in the common sense of the term,” and asked for a suspended sentence.

While euthanasia is illegal in France, it is legal or decriminalized in some neighboring countries to the north – Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands.

According to a Newsweek article from January, most recent data from 2013 indicates that one out of every 28 deaths in the Netherlands is from assisted suicide. In the country, people do not need proof of a terminal illness to access these medical resources, but instead need only two physicians who agree that the patients’ suffering is “unbearable,” – the definition of which grows every year and includes depression and loneliness. After an assisted suicide, a euthanasia committee composed of a doctor, a lawyer and an ethicist review the case to determine if the doctor assisting the suicide is guilty of a crime. Since 2002, these committees have found roughly five cases a year to be illegal. None of the doctors implicated in these cases were prosecuted, simply promising they would not make the same mistake again.

Despite adoption by some northern European countries, euthanasia remains highly controversial within Europe. The day before Bonnemaison was acquitted in his first trial, a French court ruled to end treatment for a comatose man. The European Court of Human Rights immediately blocked this decision and began reviewing the case, later ruling that the man in question could be taken off life support. Despite this ruling, doctors refused to take him off life support fearing reprisals from anti-euthanasia activists.