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Last Updated: Friday, 26 September, 2003, 12:06 GMT 13:06 UK
Overdose kills right-to-die man
Vincent Hubert before the accident
Vincent was mentally alert and wanted to die
A severely disabled Frenchman has died two days after his mother put an overdose in his drip.

The case of 22-year-old Vincent Humbert who was left mute, blind and paralysed following an accident three years ago has sparked a nation-wide debate over euthanasia in France.

His mother, Marie Humbert, 47, was briefly arrested on Wednesday after injecting him with barbiturates in the northern town of Berck-sur-Mer.

She has now been released into psychiatric care.

Euthanasia is illegal in France and prosecutors are considering whether to charge Mrs Humbert with murder or manslaughter.

Local prosecutor Gerald Lesigne said the investigation would continue "normally" - a post-mortem examination would be carried out to determine the cause of Vincent Hubert's death.

You have the right to pardon and I am asking you for the right to die
Vincent Humbert

But Justice Minister Dominique Perben has urged "the greatest humanity in applying the law" in this case.

Opinion polls suggest that the majority of French people believe Marie Humbert was right to carry out her son's request.

Following this tragic case, more than 80% of respondents say the law against voluntary euthanasia should now be changed, says the BBC's Caroline Wyatt.

Plea ignored

"He got what he wanted, and what he wanted is what counts," said Laurent, Vincent's brother after the death was announced at about 1045 local time (0845 GMT).

"I am happy that my brother is finally free, it's an enormous relief," he said.

The incident was highly-publicised - Mrs Humbert had announced her plans to the media and she put the overdose on the drip three years to the day Vincent had the accident.

Vincent's mother
Mother and son wrote a book
Her son had written to President Jacques Chirac to allow him to end his life.

The request was turned down, but the publicity ignited a fierce debate in France over whether the law forbidding assisted suicide should be changed.

On Thursday, Vincent Humbert's book I Ask for the Right to Die was published in France, describing his intense frustration at what he called a "living death".

He wrote the book using his right thumb, the only part of his body he was able to move, to indicate the letter of the alphabet he wanted.

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WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Caroline Wyatt
"His mother's attempts to help him [die], have split the nation"



SEE ALSO:
Euthanasia grief less severe
24 Jul 03  |  Health
Dutch legalise euthanasia
01 Apr 02  |  Europe


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