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Last Updated: Monday, 17 March 2008, 17:46 GMT
France rejects right-to-die plea
Chantal Sebire
Ms Sebire suffers from an extremely rare form of cancer
A French woman with a severely disfiguring and incurable facial tumour has been refused the right to die.

Chantal Sebire, a 52-year-old former schoolteacher and mother of three, had asked a court in Dijon, eastern France, to allow doctors to help her die.

But while the French have liberalised legislation governing euthanasia, the court ruled the law still did not allow doctors to actively end a life.

The case of Ms Sebire has, however, sparked intense debate and sympathy.

She suffers 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.

'Second opinion'

But a magistrate in Dijon said such a request could simply not be granted.

I now know how to get my hands on what I need, and if I don't get it in France, I will get it elsewhere
Chantal Sebire

"Even if the physical degeneration of Madame Sebire merits compassion, this request can only be rejected under French law," he said.

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 has 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.

Ms Sebire, who has said she will not appeal Monday's decision, has, however indicated she may go to a country such as Switzerland - where assisted suicide is legal.

"I now know how to get my hands on what I need, and if I don't get it in France, I will get it elsewhere," she has said.

Sarah Wootton, of Dignity in Dying, which campaigns in the UK for assisted dying for the terminally ill, said: "It is immensely sad that because France has no assisted dying law, Chantal Sebire will continue to suffer.

"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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