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Last Updated: Wednesday, 19 March 2008, 22:04 GMT
French euthanasia-row woman dies
Chantal Sebire
Ms Sebire suffered from an extremely rare form of cancer
A French woman with an incurable facial tumour who lost a legal challenge seeking euthanasia has died at her home near Dijon at the age of 52.

Former schoolteacher Chantal Sebire, a mother of three, had asked a court to allow doctors to help her die. The cause of her death is not yet known.

Ms Sebire's tumour had left her blind, disfigured and suffering intense pain.

The court had said Ms Sebire's physical condition may "inspire compassion" but the law did not allow assisted suicide.

Request to Sarkozy

The case of Ms Sebire sparked intense debate.

She suffered from an extremely rare form of cancer in the nasal cavity known as an esthesioneuroblastoma.

Only 200 cases of the disease have been recorded worldwide in the past two decades.

Appealing on French television last month for the right to die, Ms Sebire said she could no longer see properly, taste or smell. She described how children ran away from her in the street.

"One would not allow an animal to go through what I have endured," she said.

But the magistrate in Dijon said: "Even if the physical degeneration of Madame Sebire merits compassion, this request can only be rejected under French law."

Legislation adopted in 2005 allows families to request that life-support equipment for terminally ill patients be switched off, but does not allow a doctor to take action to end a patient's life.

French President Nicholas Sarkozy, whom Ms Sebire had urged to intervene in her case, said he had asked his chief health adviser to make contact, and help with providing further opinions on her condition.

Sarah Wootton, of Dignity in Dying, which campaigns in the UK for assisted dying for the terminally ill, said after the court ruling: "It is simply wrong that terminally ill people not just in France, but also in the UK, who are suffering unbearably are not being given the choice to die with dignity."

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